A La Carte Pickup: A New Model for Recreational Sports

Tanisha Johnson provides Waco Texas with community, convenience and connection through sports!

Tanisha Johnson (in the centre of the group photo) rocks killer socks and enjoys some fun in the sun playing in the leagues she runs!

I met Tanisha Johnson, founder and owner of Texas Sport and Social Club — Waco, over a video call shortly after sending her an email pitching the idea of running pickup sports in addition to her leagues. As soon as our computers connected through google hangouts, her smile was beaming through the screen. I could feel her energy and pride ooze as I observed her organization’s logo (a Star with the American flag) on her white polo and listened to her launch into stories about the evolution of TSSC-Waco. Both complete strangers, we met each other’s zealous personalities with a lot of mutual warmth and both left the call feeling ready launch something great in a city that is ready to be taken by a recreational sports storm🏐🌪!

Innovating Waco through Social Sports

Tanisha, young, bubbly, and holding a Masters of education, manages to teach during the day and run an entire Sport and Social Club during her off time. She tells me a little bit about Waco, a city I had only previously read about in a book called “The boy who was raised as a dog,” which left a fairly grim impression regarding the famous Waco Siege. It didn’t make sense to me that someone as happy go lucky and successful as Tanisha could be living in what I previously thought was a bleak, dark city.

Tanisha painted a different picture for me, a colourful one, brimming with family life: “Waco is a very family based city, and is looking to attract more young professionals,” she says.

When moving to a new city alone, as in the case of the typical life stage of a young professional, it is often sports that are the catalyst to building new social networks. This Sport and Social Club that she runs is a whole new concept to them “it gives a new, fresh community push.”

As I piece together the novelty of creating a multi-sport social sports organization in a city unfamiliar to this concept, with the fact that Waco is trying to re-brand and attract youth, I realize that Tanisha has a very important role to play in the city’s plan to grow into a desirable one, flourishing with young life.

“Come as strangers, leave as friends” mural in Waco Texas: https://wacoheartoftexas.com/. Unlike most other large cities we have OpenSports groups in, Tanisha exclaims, “There’s lots of open space. It’s all space!”

“A la carte pickup”: Give players convenience and choice

Six years ago, in April 2013, Tanisha Johnson hosted Texas Sports and Social Club — Waco’s first ever game, a pickup kickball game. “30 people came out,” Tanisha tells me. “That’s how we got started”. To my surprise, even six years, hundreds of leagues, and thousands of players later, Tanisha is managing TSSC — Waco on her own, so she values simplicity. When she viewed my email, proposing that she runs pickup sports in addition to her leagues on a system that will automate everything for her, she remembered that sunny day in 2013 when it all began.

Tanisha dreamed up the pickup sports system that we built, seemingly long before we contacted her. Bouncing off of my explanation of our new pickup sports memberships system, she gushes, “It’s fabulous, it’s what I wanted to do, and it’s definitely how I wanted to do it with the ‘a la carte’ style… some people don’t want to commit to a 7-week season, they want to play this, this, this, this, and this”.

All of this explains Tanisha’s excitement when we connected. More than anyone, she just got it. Tanisha’s vision for “a la carte” pickup is players can buy a monthly recurring membership and play as many different automatically discounted pickup games as they want. She understands that in a modern city buzzing with young professionals, people need flexibility, convenience, and choice.

Tanisha gets excited as she thinks about the possibilities…

“People who can’t consistently commit to the one league can still participate, and can try different sports!”

She thinks of what payers may say after a pickup game, as I quietly nod at her marketing vision:

“ Ooooh I really like this sand volleyball (pickup) game, I’m going to join this league!”

June 4 2019: Congratulations on the re-launch of pickup games!!

The Launch: One Membership, Many Sports

Tanisha launched her pickup sports group in June 2019 with a sand volleyball game, and a soccer game. She has gone ALL IN — she is the first organizer to not only offer memberships, but also allow the member benefits (discounts) apply to multiple sports. Her touches of ingenuity are going to massively benefit Waco and with a bit of luck, will also have an impact on sports groups and even cities globally.

So how did the first two events go? If these posts from TSSC-Waco’s Facebook group are any indication, everybody followed Tanisha’s #1 rule: HAVE FUN!

When I visit cities like New York City, the options to play recreational sports are endless. In a place like Waco that is still building its identity and population, sports have a big role to play in shaping the social fabric of the city. We are wholly excited to be a part of this movement in Waco, Texas. Tanisha, thank you for infecting us with your joy! WAHOO for WACO!

❤ Alicia and the OpenSports team | Feel free to get in touch at alicia@opensports.net