A Dallas startup called Hoop Club is getting attention from the professionals.
Hoop Club has created a digital way for people to organize pickup basketball games. The program’s $10 games provide a “no drama” way to play that even NBA players—Dennis Smith Jr., Trae Young, Johnathan Motley—have given it a try.
After being frustrated with his local pickup scene, Ed Chao knew there had to be a simple solution. So, he took his experience with using booking widgets to give basketball the digital treatment. “I created Hoop Club for myself,” Chao told Dallas Innovates.
Hoop Club, which has over 1,100 people signed up, has its own system for organizing pickup basketball. A scorekeeper keeps the ten-minute games running smoothly, and with only 15 players per game, people on the sidelines don’t have to wait on the bench for long.
“This 15-player cap is a magic number,” Chao says. “Because with three teams, you never have to wait more than one game, and hoopers hate to wait.”
Hoop Club has some avid players, with some having played more than 100 games through its program. Chao knew the struggle of finding a good game of pickup basketball to join without “knowing someone who knows someone.” With Hoop Club, players don’t have to know anyone to get a game together.
Hoop Club brings its members together through more than just pickup basketball games, too. The startup also hosts events for members, like an NBA Finals watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings.
Connecting and unplugging is what Chao is all about. He feels that phones isolate people, but pickup basketball can help change that.
“It also creates these serendipitous moments,” he says. “People run into people they know at games, like people they went to high school with.”
Players control every aspect of their involvement, from signing up (first timers play for free) to paying on the Hoop Club website. Once signed up, hoopers can determine their Player Rating to even out the competition each game.
A facilitator checks players in prior to each game, and after showing up, drama-free ball can commence for two hours.
Hoop Club partners with places all over North Texas, so price varies depending on where players sign up to go. Like Fretz Rec Center, Walnut Hill Rec Center, Churchill Rec Center, and Samuell Grand Rec Center in Dallas all require a rec card that’s $15 a year for Dallas residents. But the Heights Rec Center in Richardson doesn’t require a rec card, and players can just pay at the gym for the game.
The program is continually adding new Dallas-Fort Worth recreation centers, with Grand Prairie and Frisco coming soon. Although only in North Texas right now, Chao notes that the requests to expand to additional cities are plentiful—and he doesn’t plan to slow down any time soon.
“I think players are loving our service because it’s a drama-free environment,” he says.
The program is celebrating its second anniversary this October and Chao hopes to expand Hoop Club to host over 100 weekly games. Soon to be joining the roster of partnering facilities is the gym at Prestonwood Church, which Chao calls “the mecca of basketball in Dallas.”
Chao says he remembers every single person who came to Hoop Club’s very first game, held in a tiny church gym. Two years later, Hoop Club coordinates pickup basketball games at nine recreation centers with more on the way.
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