By Rachel Chou
You’ve just moved to the city and your life hasn’t turned out to be quite the New York City sitcom you thought it would be. Yes, you’re living in a shoebox sized apartment, you have a great job, but you’re missing the key ingredient for a 90’s television hit! You find yourself casting about for those inspiring, zany, super smart, super goofy friends who make the slog of city life all worth it. And finding those people can be tough when you’re the new kid on the block. Recently the RoomZoom team made friends with the lovely people over at ZogSports, a company which organizes seasonal sports leagues all around New York City, encouraging community, camaraderie, and a sense of play that so many city dwellers need. Because like RoomZoom, they are community-based and encourage IRL connections between people to make NYC a more hospitable place, we decided to dig a little deeper and sat down for a chat with Ashley Merdinger, ZogSports national marketing manager.
A little background: ZogSports was a brainchild of Robert Herzog that emerged from tragedy. He worked on the 96th floor of the World Trade Center and on the morning of September 11 narrowly missed the attack because of a slow start to his day: he hit the snooze button twice, ran morning errands, and took the local train. Unfortunately, 297 of his colleagues already at work did not survive. In his grief, Herzog cherished the sense of camaraderie and charity that swept over New Yorkers in the aftermath of the devastation and wanted to keep that strong sense of community going strong even after 9/11 began to fade in people’s minds.
We imagine that such a special origin story must make Ashley’s job in marketing at ZogSports unique so we sat down to discuss the company, the lives it affects, and the impact it had on her own life.
Name: Ashley Merdinger
Occupation: National Marketing Manager
Hometown: Stony Brook
Current city: New York, New York
Many of our users are new to the city, many are recent graduates. How intimidating is it for someone to sign up on their own? Are there group games that people play to get to know one another, do they make introductions, or do they just start playing? Essentially, how intimidating is ZogSports for someone who is new to the city?
A lot of people who join ZogSports are people who just moved to the city. It can be impossible to meet people in the city, but ZogSports makes it easy because you’re automatically joining a community of people, and people who are like you. It’s a non-awkward way to meet people. We’ve seen millions of players forming real personal connections. Connections that become roommates, travel buddies, or even romantic partners. We constantly hear awesome stories about couples who met in a ZogSports league and are now living together, engaged, married, or becoming parents to little, future Zoggers.
We make sure that joining a league is not intimidating at all and encourage players to join as free agents. There are different skill levels to choose from, so whether you’ve been playing your whole life or you’ve never played before you’ll feel comfortable. It’s a very welcoming environment, too. As soon as you put on the ZogSports t-shirt you’re part of a community and automatically have fans cheering you on. There are happy hours after every game, too, so you can better bond with your teammates and meet people from other teams.
What kinds of charities are people choosing?
Each team chooses a charity to play for so we get to see such a great variety every season – like American Cancer Society, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, or smaller, local organizations like Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. We’re so proud that our teams select such amazing charities to play for and, thanks to them, we’ve been able to donate over $3.4 MM to thousands of different organizations around the world since our launch.
What is the age range of people who join ZogSports, and does age impact teamwork at all?
The prime demographic is 23-32. We aim to create teams that will yield the best connections, so we build teams based on skill level and age range. This way everyone feels comfortable and can better mesh with their likeminded teammates, which of course, leads to better teamwork.
Like how the Superbowl bring unlikely friends cheering on the same couch, or the Olympics gives people from different countries something to talk about, sports continues to be a vehicle for people to come together. What is it about sports that creates camaraderie between people?
Sports brings people together. Whether you’ve just met five minutes ago or you’ve known each other for 15 years, when you’re part of a team you share a common goal. You’re all wearing the same team shirt so you feel connected. Whether your team wins or loses you’re doing it together and that’s what brings you closer.
When corporate teams do ZogSports, have they given back feedback that it has impacted teamwork within their office?
Hundreds of companies are playing in ZogSports’ Corporate Leagues or working with ZogCulture, our sister company, to infuse play into their workplace. We are helping offices improve communication between their teams, break down barriers that could inhibit teamwork, and boost their overall company morale. When you spend a night throwing dodgeballs at Glen from accounting it’s much easier to approach him the next day in the office. It gives coworkers common ground, allows people to show off leadership skills that might go otherwise unnoticed, and it makes it easy to create connections. Plus, it’s fun!
ZogSports is all about having fun and community. What is it like to be a part of the ZogSports team?
The office culture is so unique, I feel extremely lucky to be a part of it. It’s a very fun place to work, and everyone cares so much about the company from top to bottom; the CEO truly values his employees. He wants us to be happy, to improve and grow, both professionally and personally. Everyone who works at Zog is friends with each other. We join leagues together, we travel together, we party together. We have offices in six markets across the country and we have a get together twice a year where everyone is genuinely excited to see each other. The office is pretty cool, too! We have ping pong and basketball, and there’s usually some good tunes playing that we all like to sing along to.
What’s next for ZogSports? More locations, more sports options?
ZogSports is always growing. 2018 is a very exciting year, because we’re growing in so many different directions. We’re officially launching our sister brand, ZogCulture, which helps companies create connections and bring play to the workplace. We just merged with LTS Chicago which will help strengthen and grow charity-driven sports leagues in the city of Chicago. We’re thrilled to welcome LTS Chicago’s players into the ZogSports community. We’re always looking for new fields and gyms to play at, new sports and games to offer, and new cities to bring the ZogSports community to, so we’re full steam ahead!
RoomZoom and ZogSports have teamed up to make your Springtime just a little more fun, healthy, and happy. RoomZoom members get $20 off their first league with the code RZZOG18SP!
Sign up at www.zogsports.com
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