British Columbia

Looking for someone to play tennis with? New app aims to help

A new app allows users to find and match with different people according to what sport they want to play at a time of their convenience.

App allows users to find people according to what sport they want to play and when

Mike Storey, Keith Humell (Monze), Matthew Riebel and Stuart Gallacher are four friends and co-workers who play basketball together in Vancouver. (Rohit Joseph/CBC)

App developer Hafiz Mitha remembers how easy it was as a kid to ride his bike to a friend's house, knock on the door, and invite him to a game of pick-up. 

Fast-forward to adulthood and Mitha regularly found himself wanting to play tennis, but unable to find anyone who could join him. 

"I was just lonely, and [the courts] were just sitting there empty," Mitha said. 

That's why Mitha created a new app called PlayCity. The app, which works like dating apps like Tindr and Bumble, allows users to find and match with different people according to what sport they want to play at a time of their convenience.

Originally launched in Calgary, Mitha has now partnered with the Radius Slingshot accelerator out of Vancouver and Mountain Equipment Co-op to soft-launch the app here.

PlayCity is an app that allows people to find and match with other people in their area with similar interests to play sports or do an activity. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

All about feeling good

Dr. Shimi Kang, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in child and youth mental health, says play is an essential part of our health and happiness.

"Play is when we really develop an area of our brain called the pre-frontal cortex," Kang explained. "So that's the part of brain that's responsible for being comfortable with uncertainty, learning through trial and error, being comfortable through abstractions, strategy planning and ultimately adaptability and innovation."

Social play releases oxytocin, a bonding chemical that makes you feel good. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In short, play feels good. The act of creative play releases serotonin — a natural antidepressant — and exercise in general releases endorphins, she says. 

Social play also releases oxytocin, a bonding chemical that makes you feel good. 

"Humans are social beings," she said. "You can't go wrong spending some time playing."

And she specifically notes that play does not only mean sports, and it's not just for kids: play is about trying new things.

"You can do that within your existing hobbies. If you're a painter or a writer ... switch genres ... We see seniors play just by expanding their social group and connecting with people who are diverse or different from [them].

"Stretch yourself beyond your limits."

With files from Rohit Joseph