When Bob Colbert started a pair of sports social clubs in Virginia, a few common traits held the concept together and allowed membership to grow: an interest in telling stories, inquisitiveness to learn more about the people telling them and the simple enjoyment of talking sports in a laid-back setting — a sports night out.
Colbert, the former Saint Vincent College head football coach, is starting a similar club in the area with the launch of the Westmoreland Sports Club.
The nonprofit club is recruiting members to attend several social events where guest speakers spin stories after a sit-down dinner before answering questions from the audience.
Eight such meetings are planned for 2022-23, all at Ferrante’s Lakeview near Greensburg.
Members will make up the audience and can learn more about former scholastic, college and pro athletes, coaches and personnel.
The club’s mission is to “promote friendship, camaraderie and goodwill” through sports chatter.
Cost is $27 to attend the dinners, with an annual membership fee of $40 ($70 per couple) — $30 for additional family memberships.
Guests may attend meetings with members.
“We hope to get people together for some fun nights to talk sports,” Colbert said. “It’s nothing more than that. We had a growing membership in Virginia and managed to bring in a number of renowned athletes to speak. I think it can work here, too.”
The first meeting will be at 5:45 p.m. Aug. 9 with former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert — Bob Colbert’s brother — as the featured speaker.
The Shenandoah Valley Athletic Club, after which the WSC is patterned, began in the fall of 2002 and just celebrated its 20th year.
“We had great leadership in the beginning from a retired Marine Colonel, Jim Benson, who served as the first president,” Bob Colbert said. “The club has a list of speakers from diverse areas of sports: former professional players, college administrators, umpires and football officials, sports psychologists and strength coaches, a NASCAR driver, media personalities and college basketball, baseball and football coaches. We elected new officers and executive committee members every two years in order to keep fresh ideas coming into the club. This will be our objective with the Westmoreland Sports Club also.
“There are plenty of persons living in and around Westmoreland County with great backgrounds to share with our members. Appealing to members with different sports background is key to having success.”
Colbert underscores that the club only raises money to pay for the speakers and venue. Members are not obligated to attend every meeting.
“It may also give people the opportunity to listen to and learn from speakers who some people don’t have affordable or easy access to hear,” Colbert said. “Many of the good speakers will hang around a bit and socialize with members.”
His Shenandoah Valley club grew to nearly 200 members strong by the time he left to come to Pennsylvania. The membership was diverse and inclusive.
“We don’t want an all-male membership,” Colbert said. “I am hopeful that as the reputation of the club expands, we will have the same kind of numbers. We’d like to see a good number of women who also have an interest in listening to entertaining and educational presenters (join). My wife attended almost every meeting when we lived in Virginia.”
Colbert said future speakers should greatly interest a Westmoreland-centric crowd. Next in line is Ken Macha, the former manager of the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers.
First-year officers of the club are Colbert (president), Mark Mears (vice president), and Lorrie Quadro (secretary/treasurer), while the initial executive committee includes Rob Holmberg, Ashley Frederick, Jamie Piraino, Herb Yingling, Mike Porembka, Bill Beckner Jr., Matt Knizner and Matt Blahovec.
The meetings will start with cash-bar social, followed by a buffet-style meal (6:30 p.m.), and the guest speaker (7:15), who will talk for about a half-hour or more.