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Greg Manley: The Litter League

Allegheny Clean Ways and Friends of the Riverfront

by Peter Mansour

All I can say is “Wow!”  It’s rare in life when you run across someone that’s so creative, he just makes your jaw drop.  But, to me, Greg Manley is that guy.  Greg is the community outreach specialist for both Friends of the Riverfront in Pittsburg and Allegheny Clean Ways.  We had so much fun delving into Greg’s background and resume. Such a unique and special individual.

Greg went to NYU and majored in experimental theater with a minor in applied theater.  He had always grown up playing sports but found himself alone amongst the theater crowd.  But it dawned on him that sports were theater.  So for his thesis, he created a new sport called circle rules football.  He convinced his professors and theater friends that it was theater.  Then he convinced his sports friends that it was sport.  Now who could hang out with all of them!

They started playing in Brooklyn at Prospect park, and before long people started joining.  Leagues started popping up all over the world and they published an official rule book.  Fast forward to today, and every branch of the military has played circle rules football and there have been 3 world cups.  There is an NYC league and it’s played in 100’s of summer camps and youth groups all over the world.

Greg bowed out of management but came out of retirement after England beat the USA in the first ever Circle Rules Football World Cup.  In fact, he lead the USA back to victory in the Amsterdam World Cup, becoming the highest scoring playing in CRF history, thereby becoming the highest scoring player in a sport he invented. At the time, he was getting so much press, he was even recognized for having his face on the back of taxi.  One can only dream.

In 2012, Greg joined the cast of Warhorse as a puppeteer which took him all over the country and as far as Tokyo.  That’s where he met his wife and she fell in love with, literally, a horse’s ass.  When the tour was over, Pittsburgh called back to him.   He wanted to grow Circle Rules Football, and there was a group there called City of Play, that had grown out of club at Pittsburgh University, that was focused on introducing people to obscure games. 

The idea is that games bond people.  And when everyone is introduced to a new game at the same time, no one had an advantage and it fostered community and camaraderie.  This forced Greg to really focus on the role of play in adult interaction.  There was a real purpose for play that extended beyond entertainment.  When people are working towards a common goal in an active and engaged environment, bods were much stronger. 

Greg’s stint running City of Play culminated in the Pittsburgh Firewalk, a festival that celebrated Pittsburg’s relationship with fire.  It included a firelit market, caldron sculptures that lit a stroll through Pittsburg’s oldest park, and, of course, games. It was very satisfying and a lot of work, and Greg decided it was time to work on something new.  His timing was perfect because this was 3 months before the covid crisis hit Pittsburg.

During this time, Greg would work as an adjunct professor, but due to covid, we was still really craving a connection to community.  So he started what he called the litter brigade.  Just a group of people, walking around the neighborhood, and picking up trash while playing music while getting to know each other.

Eventually he was hired by both Alleghany Clean Ways and Friends of the Waterfront to be their community outreach specialist! Greg starting thing about how to scale community engagement, and the idea of using his experience with game quickly came to the forefront- he decided to gamify litter pick-up.

Hence the idea of the Litter League was born.  It is an 8-week litter collection competition in which teams compete to see who can pick up the most trash.  This year’s event is being run on ifUiWill, the app built for people doing things together.  This year’s competition is set to far outpace last year’s. 

Greg’s story inspired us so much.  Check out the litter league competition.  Maybe you can come up with a competition for your community and bring people together!

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