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All My Rowdy Friends Play Cornhole

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Alan Dickherber, Joe Benincasa, Jackie Adams, Karen Wilkins, Bruce Kolbinsky (L-R) with branded board

It may be debatable how much of a sport cornhole is, but you can play with a beer in one hand – how bad can that be?

Hanging out with friends and co-workers after a long day can involve more than eating and drinking. With the CornholeATL Cornhole League hosting games four times a year at Peachtree Corners Town Center, you can add tossing bean bags at a small hole to the mix.

Alan Dickherber, Joe Benincasa, Chad Schloerke, Jackie Adams, David and Findley the Mascot Dog!

The state’s largest and fastest-growing cornhole league is back for another season of fun. CornholeATL’s Fall League starts in August and, as always, there are four different divisions of play to accommodate all skill levels.

Make friends and have fun

Jeff Brawand, Owner of CornholeATL, moved to metro Atlanta from Cincinnati, Ohio in 2007 to work for Delta Airlines. “Growing up in Ohio, cornhole is everywhere,” he said. “When I moved to Atlanta, I was looking for a way to meet people.”

He tried kickball games and soccer and things like that, but as he got older, he was looking for an outlet where he wouldn’t get hurt or seriously injured. “I got to the point where I said to myself, ‘I don’t need to be sliding anymore. I’m just trying to meet new people and meet new friends.’ And so, I started the cornhole league, CornholeATL, in 2011,” he said.

Throwing the cornhole bag

The league started in Virginia Highlands in a public park. A few years later, Brawand said he “pivoted to playing at bars, mixed use developments and open green spaces.”

He likes the fact that players are surrounded by different sorts of restaurants at Town Center and there’s plenty of space to spread out and have fun. “It’s a lot easier than having to play in a public park where people are bringing out coolers,” Brawand said. “It’s easier to play at a venue where people could just buy drinks, buy food and kind of spend their money on site.”

One of the first mixed-use developments where CornholeATL set was Avalon in Alpharetta. “They love it because we’re bringing people on a night where it might not be as busy,” noted Brawand. “But now people are coming out playing cornhole. They’re grabbing dinner with their friends beforehand; they’re grabbing drinks during and after the games. So it kind of just built up the area a little bit more.”

The league came to Peachtree Corners about three years ago, when teams started forming outside the Perimeter. “It’s been really successful outside the city,” Brawand said. “There’s a lot of stuff to do already [in Atlanta] and so it does great here because people might not have as much to do. And when they get home, they probably don’t want to have to go downtown. They want to be able to stay in their area.”

Karen Wilkins and Amy Schlosser – Girl Power showing team name “Shut up and Throw”

When North American Properties General Manager Tim Perry presented his company’s vison for The Forum, events like the cornhole league were what he said the property will endorse. Brawand stressed that working with the Town Center staff has been a great experience and the seasons have been quite successful.

How it works

Each season of CornholeATL lasts seven weeks and there are four cornhole seasons a year. “We do it spring, summer, fall and winter,” Brawand said. “The first six weeks are the regular season, and the last week – week seven — is the playoffs for that location.”

Each league has four divisions: beginner, intermediate, intermediate-plus and advanced. That way people with similar skill levels compete against each other. It would be kind of like having Charles Barkley or Michael Jordan playing pick-up basketball.

“You basically can go to our website and kind of see the skill level you would be best suited,” Brawand said. “If you’re barely hitting a board, then you’re probably a beginner. But if you’re getting all four in the hole or on the board, then you’re probably advanced.”

At the end of the day, the goal is to have fun, said Brawand. “That’s our focus. And that’s why we call it a cornhole league as opposed to a tournament. The word tournament kind of has a negative vibe that might be a little bit more competitive.

“So it’s a league; it’s a social league. The beginners will only play beginners all season long, even when it comes to the playoffs. Beginners only play the beginners in their division in the playoffs so you’re never playing up or down, which makes it a little bit more approachable.”

Jackie Adams, Senior Director of Operations of New Franchise Development at Floor Coverings International has been on a CornholeATL team at Peachtree Corners Town Center since the league came there. “It’s super chill and a good way to relax and unwind with friends after work,” she said.

In an era when not as many companies sponsor bowling or softball, the relatively small cost to pay for employees to form a cornhole team is quite attractive. “The company reimburses us for our registration, and we have t-shirts made every season,” said Adams. “And since the teams are so small, we always have enough people to play.”

Within the six weeks of regular play, a team needs at least two people to be present to play or the game will be forfeited, Brawand explained. After two forfeitures, the team is out of the league. “We don’t want to waste people’s time,” he said. “It’s a commitment, but a small one.”

Championship play

After a winner is declared for each division within a league, the winning teams move on to the state championship to play the winners of the other leagues. Right now, there are 45 leagues in the state from as far east as Athens, as far west as Carterville, as far south as Fayetteville and as far north as the outlets near Cumming.

The farthest leagues could be a couple of hours’ drive from Atlanta, so the championship games are rotated around the area, although they’re usually held in the city.

“We just did the spring tournament in Woodstock, and the summer one will be in Acworth,” said Brawand. Last year one of the championships was held in Peachtree Corners.

“It’s a blast. Everyone comes out from around the whole state,” he continued. “There are usually around 350 people playing and they all bring some spectators because it’s a big event with big prizes and big trophies.”

Some of the coveted prizes have been tailgating chairs that say “Champions” on the back, which can be pretty cool when you’re hanging out at a Bulldogs or Falcons game.

“We pride ourselves on being a social league and having those divisions,” said Brawand. “It’s more of a social thing than a sport. You come out and have a good time. And you can toss the bean bag with one hand while you have your choice of beverage in the other.”

Sign up now to play cornhole this fall

Registration for the CornholeATL Fall League is open until August 22. Sign up at cornholeatl.leaguelab.com/league/52593/detail. For more info, email info@cornholeatl.com.

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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Business

Deflecting debilitating blows one Guardian Cap at a time

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A Guardian Cap in use courtesy of Guardian Sports

With football season in the rearview for most players, the effects of injuries–especially those blows to the head–can alter careers and live well after the final play.

A relatively new piece of equipment manufactured in Peachtree Corners helps alleviate much of the impact from those hits that a helmet alone can’t deflect.

Husband and wife team Lee and Erin Hanson started Guardian Sports in 2011 with one goal: innovating equipment to better serve athletes. But one must go back even further to understand the science behind their technology.

“[Our initial company] really had nothing to do with sports,” said Erin.

She and her husband started the Hanson Group, a material science company, about 30 years ago.

“The Hanson Group solves problems for other companies–material science problems,” she said.

“Lee is a chemical engineer from Georgia Tech. … [He created] things for the military and all kinds of applications for all kinds of Fortune 500 companies. If they need something done quickly, they come to the Hanson Group and we try to solve their material science problems,” she explained.

By chance, someone from the helmet industry came to them looking to make a more flexible helmet.

“We saw the data behind what it could do to flex the exterior of a helmet,” she said. “And even though that company didn’t make it, we decided that if we could retrofit any football helmet inexpensively, we could cut down on the impact that all players were feeling.”

Making football fun and safe for all

When the idea for Guardian Caps came together, the Hansons weren’t considering adding another division to the company.

The drive to make the helmet accessory grew from the passion to help the game.

“Quite honestly, Lee and I were pretty far along in our lives. We had raised five children, and he had been at the Hanson Group for at least 20 years by then,” said Erin.

The couple questioned whether they wanted to launch something new and revolutionary. There was nothing like it on the market.

“We felt like if we’re going to go direct to consumer, we’re going to branch off to a whole new company and just go for it and see if we can make a difference,” said Erin.

Through trial and error, Lee and his team analyzed data that showed what a softer helmet exterior could do to reduce impact, which would translate into reducing injury rates.

“And how can we do it in a way that’s affordable and could be available for mass adoption?” Lee said during an interview with the city of Peachtree Corners.

“How can I make it affordable to that mom who’s already buying all that equipment for her child to play youth football? How can we create a one-size-fits-all?” he recalled.

He said they worked with a cut-and-sew facility and seamstress and made up the first prototypes before testing them in a laboratory.

Their son and his teammates at Wesleyan became the first to practice with the new equipment.

In 2012, The University of South Carolina and Clemson were the first college adopters, and the company experienced solid grassroots growth after that.

Joining the Peachtree Corners business community

By 2014, the Hansons moved their company to Peachtree Corners to benefit from the pro-business, family-friendly community and strong Georgia Tech connections.

The Guardian Cap is now used by over 300,000 youth high school and college athletes nationwide and mandated by the NFL for all 32 teams.

The cap dramatically reduces the force of impact upon collision, as experienced by football and lacrosse players. This topic has come to national attention due to CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and its relation to concussions.

According to company literature, in 2017, Guardian won the first NFL HeadHealth TECH challenge to “develop new and improved helmet and protective equipment.”

While the football helmet itself has undergone many changes since the early days of the small leather hats that only covered the tops of the head and the ears (no face mask and nothing to absorb blows from tackles and other hits), Guardian Caps are an accessory that builds upon modern technology.

Some college and professional players wear helmets made so that the interior conforms to their heads. Guardian Caps adds a layer of protection on the outside, absorbing shock before the impact even reaches the helmet.

“Now, obviously, safety is a concern amongst athletes. So, Guardian Cap has come up with this soft-shell layer that goes on top of the hard shell of the helmet,” said Lee.

In 2018, testing done by NFL and NFLPA-appointed engineers revealed that Guardian Caps made a statistically significant improvement over hard-shell helmets alone, company literature said.

By August 2020, the NFL allowed its teams to wear Guardian Caps during practice. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first to do so. In July 2022, Guardian Caps were featured at NFL training camps for all 32 teams.

This year, the NFL mandated that Guardian Caps be used for the 2023 season in all pre-season, regular season, and post-season practices. Players in position groups with the most head contact will be required to wear Guardian Caps in addition to running backs and fullbacks, as well as linemen and linebackers.

No one-hit-wonder

Genius doesn’t take a timeout, and Guardian Sports isn’t resting on the Caps’ success alone.

“We’re constantly evolving, and although Guardian Caps is our flagship product, we’ve got others,” said Erin.

Their son Jake was a lacrosse goalie at Georgia Tech, dodging rock-hard projectiles flying at him at 93 miles an hour.

“So, we said, ‘You know, why don’t we make lacrosse balls out of rubber?’” Erin said.

Thus, Lee created a urethane ball. Called the “Pearl,” it is now the official ball of the NCAA lacrosse tournament.

The Hansons have also developed infill for artificial turf fields that isn’t made of used car tires.

Without the chemicals and carcinogens of rubber tires, the smoother pellets are puffed with air, cause fewer abrasions and lower the temperature of the field by as much as 30 degrees.

“As we see things, it’s really difficult not to want to solve things when you see our children being affected by it,” said Erin.

Investors initially wanted to sell Guardian Caps at $1,000 each, but the Hansons knew that families couldn’t afford that price tag for youth sports. At the end of the day, they are a dad and a mom who are looking out for the safety of kids.

“The NFL is really cool, and they’ve helped us with exposure, but, you know, we’ve got a real passion for helping those young developing players, for sure,” she said.

Guardian Sports
3044 Adriatic Ct NW
Peachtree Corners, GA 30071
guardiansports.com
770-667-6004

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Curiosity Lab Criterium 2024 Scheduled for Peachtree Corners as Part of Speed Week

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The 2024 Curiosity Lab Criterium will take place on a course in the world-famous Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners.
Curiosity Lab Criterium 2023 (Photos by Roxy Stone, Tytan Pictures)

The City of Peachtree Corners is proud to announce the scheduling of the second Annual Curiosity Lab Criterium as part of Speed Week on April 28, 2024. 

This year’s event will also feature a running race, kid’s races, food trucks, vendors and other activities for the family.

Curiosity Lab Criterium 2023 (Photos by Roxy Stone, Tytan Pictures)

Speed Week is a premiere week-long event on the U.S. Pro Cycling Circuit that draws cyclists from around the world, including Olympic medalists and world and national champions.  

In 2023, the professional men’s and women’s events drew cyclists from over 30 states and more than 20 countries.

The 2024 Curiosity Lab Criterium will take place on a course in the world-famous Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, a 5G-enabled 500-acre living laboratory ecosystem designed specifically as a proving ground for IoT, mobility and smart city emerging technologies.

Curiosity Lab Criterium 2023 (Photos by Roxy Stone, Tytan Pictures)

The Criterium will feature an array of innovative technologies currently being deployed to help protect vulnerable road users (VRUs).  

This event will also showcase the VRU technology of tomorrow as exhibited by private sector V2X companies and sensor innovators, OEMs hardware and software manufacturers, government officials, bike companies, advocacy groups and more.

Curiosity Lab Criterium 2023 (Photos by Roxy Stone, Tytan Pictures)

Enter a race, or just come to enjoy the festivities.  

CategoryTime Duration
Junior 9-10, 11-12 and 13-1410 a.m.30 min.
Junior 15-16 and 17-1810:45 a.m.30 min.
Master 40+ 11:30 a.m.45 min.
Master 50+ and Master 60+12:30 p.m.45 min.
Women 4/51:30 p.m.30 min.
Men 4/52:15 p.m.30 min.
Women 3/43 p.m.40 min.
Men 2/33:50 p.m.45 min.
Running Race5 p.m.15 min.
Kid’s Races5:15 p.m.15 min.
Women Pro 1/2/3 5:45 p.m.50 min.
Men Pro 1/2 7 p.m.60 min.
Curiosity Lab Criterium schedule

Race registration and additional details will be released as they become available.

Learn more about V2X Mobility here.

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Norcross Women’s Water Polo Claims State Championship Title for the First Time

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By Emily Stevenson, Norcross Coaching Staff

The Norcross Lady Blue Devils capped off a successful water polo season when they claimed the Georgia High School Water Polo Association state title in October. 

A young team with big heart

The team’s founding season was three years ago, in 2021. Over half of the team has been playing only this sport since then. 

“When I first started, I was drowning 90% of the time,” goalkeeper Micaiah Hughes said when recalling her introduction to water polo. 

“Now I’m dragging my family to the pool, talking to everyone about the sport and sharing a fraction of what an amazing transformation it has had on my life,” she added. 

There’s no doubt that this sport has positively impacted these young athletes.

Chestatee High School Sophomore Frankie Arendale passes the ball to complete a goal against the Lady Wildcats.

The road to winning a state championship

The Lady Blue Devils had a stellar season but were ranked third in the state, having lost to the Southern Crescent team of South Atlanta and the Wildcats of Cobb County during their regular season. 

In the state championships, coaches Mariana Lombello and Emily Stevenson knew they had to take a different approach to motivate the athletes to dig deep.

“The talent was always there for us to win the state championship,” Coach Lombello said. “The girls were conditioned, knew their plays and had the connection and camaraderie … the only thing we needed was the drive to win.” 

We encouraged them to dig deep and to really believe that they could be champions, so our theme for the weekend became ‘Believe.’ We had the girls visualize themselves scoring goals, completing passes to one another and holding the trophy,” she explained. 

This encouragement proved successful when the Lady Blue Devils were down by three points to the Lady Wildcats in the semi-final game with only minutes left to play. Coach Lombello called a timeout to center the exhausted athletes and recited their mantra: Believe. 

“I believe you guys can win. This is it. Leave it all in the pool,” Lombello encouraged.

Norcross High School Junior Amelia Washburn looks for space to pass the ball during a regular season game against Atlanta Public Schools program.

Close game propels Lady Blue Devils forward

The Lady Blue Devils lost to the Lady Wildcats three times during the regular season, but they weren’t going to give up. The game ended on a buzzer-beater scored by Norcross High School junior Amelia Washburn

The crowd went wild, recognizing the mental toughness and physical skill required to make a comeback that epic. The final score was 16 to 15, and Norcross advanced to the finals.

Washburn transitioned from swimming to water polo full-time in 2021. 

“Water polo has taught me to not put limits on myself and what I’m capable of … to just go for it,” Washburn said. 

“That has improved my confidence in and out of the pool,” she added. 

Now Washburn, along with her teammates and other players all over North Georgia, plays water polo year-round. They play under North Atlanta Water Polo, the local USA Water Polo-sanctioned league founded by Elizabeth and Chris Arendale.

A special team dynamic 

Chestatee High School sophomore Frankie Arendale was a pivotal playmaker in the Lady Blue Devils’ successful season. With over 50 goals scored this season (10 of them scored in the semi-final game alone), Arendale’s skill was unmatched. 

She attributes her success to the positivity and shared love of her teammates.

“I’ve played water polo for several different teams, but this season was different,” Arendale said. “All of the girls really get each other. No one was down, and everyone was positive. Everything fit together magically.” 

Arendale was recognized as the 2023 Georgia High School Water Polo Association League MVP and has been playing water polo for eight years.

Sophomore Micaiah Hughes blocks a shot from the goal made by a Lakeside High school athlete.

The future of water polo in Georgia is bright

It is the goal of both coaches Lombello and Stevenson, as well as the North Atlanta Water Polo club, to continue to foster a love for this sport in youths. 

“Making a name for Norcross early on in the growth of the sport will be huge,” Elizabeth Arendale, founder of Norcross Water Polo Club girls’ program and North Atlanta Water Polo club, said. “We want to be affiliated with high-level water polo.”

The Lady Blue Devils practice at West Gwinnett Park and Aquatic Center in Norcross, GA.

Team photos taken by Kryski Photography.

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