The Club, founded by New Orleans natives Janeicia Neely and Austin McCann, is a new year-round indoor recreational men and women’s basketball league.
“Basically, it’s for men and women who want to play for fun,” said Neely
She added that this is the first women’s recreational basketball league in New Orleans. She recalls the void of not having the option to play on a women’s team before traveling to Switzerland to play professional basketball; therefore, her only option was to participate in men’s recreational teams.
“When playing in men's leagues, you're limited,” she explained, “For example, I’m 5’5", so trying to rebound with a 6’4" grown man is probably not the best idea."
“I was interested in starting this league to give everyone the option to play at their highest potential,” she said.
Neely said that the summer before leaving for Switzerland, she’d envisioned creating a league for women to fill that void and used her free time while abroad to plan out the possibilities. Upon her return, she partnered with her now brother-in-law to begin orchestrating logistics for the league. With Neely’s basketball experience and connections and McCann’s background with a bachelor's degree in business from Northwestern State University and an MBA from Loyola, the pair worked hand-in-hand to found The Club.
“I was involved in different organizations where we had the chance to use business skills to start new things, start new projects, and plan events,” said McCann. “I learned a lot of different skills you need to turn a dream into a reality.”
McCann also added that his experience with advertising and his role as an executive events coordinator for the student activities board has been helpful in the beginning stages, planning and recruitment.
“I’ve always been good at getting people to show up places,” he said. “So I get to use those skills and tactics that I learned, then, to get people to sign up for our league and hopefully show up to games in two weeks.”
Though McCann says other men's recreational leagues do exist in the New Orleans, McCann hopes to add diversity among players within The Club that other leagues lack.
He explained that other leagues in the city don't promote themselves to a variety of audiences.
“I consider myself a very diverse person. I am involved with a lot of different communities and groups around the city,” he said. “So I want to create a basketball league that I can share with all parties I’m involved with, so different people from different backgrounds, different interests, but [who] all enjoy this common interest of basketball, can come together, not only to play basketball, but to build relationships as well.”
Another aspect that will be unique to this league is that fact that stats will be documented at games, giving players opportunity to share with friends, as McCann admits that is difficult to keep up with how many points, assists, and rebounds one makes each game. He added that he thinks it will add friendly competition amongst and within the teams
Neely also mentioned that in the future, they hope to implement division separation by experience levels.
“There will be a level difference between someone who played professionally and someone who played in high school,” she explained. “That is a goal of ours that we have in mind, but for now, we’re just encouraging everyone to come out and see how many numbers we can get to get it started.”
The minimum requirement as of now is seven players per team. Men's games will be held at McMain High school, and the first two women’s games will be held at Andrew H. Wilson Charter School, with the following games also held at McMain. Women's games are scheduled for Sunday from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m., and men’s games are Tuesdays from 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.. There is a one-time registration fee of $75 per player and an additional fee of $30 per team and per game to pay referees.
“My biggest wish and hope is that people sign up and make their teams, so that we can have a successful league and that it just grows and grows to where we have multiple games throughout the week,” said McCann.
“I’m looking forward to expanding throughout the greater New Orleans and getting to a point of having name recognition and a reputation of putting on a super-organized league,” Neely added. “We’re really just looking forward to it all coming together.”
The women’s league is to start on June 24, with the men’s league following on June 26. For more information visit theclubbasketball.com.