A funny thing happened one morning when I casually asked a friend how she got into such amazing shape. She opened my eyes to a whole new world of …women’s SOCCER! Wait. What? At that point, my daughter had played on a few teams and I’d gone to all her games and practices (most were cold and dreary), but grown-ups play too? It was music to a young mom’s ears, who craved – yes CRAVED – to get into shape. Only thing was…I’d NEVER played before. Not in college. Not in high school. Heck, not even in middle school. In fact, I wasn’t allowed to join a team sport as a kid and only played the occasional neighborhood stick ball or kickball. My friend reassured me there were lots of others, just like me, who’d never played and had basically learned from the sidelines as they cheered their kids on. Seriously.
She wasn’t lying! She put me in touch with someone who was forming a new team and, voila, I joined. The first time I stepped foot on the indoor soccer field (artificial turf and all) I was a bit nervous. Truth be told, I was so out of shape that I was huffing and puffing in the first few minutes! Fortunately, I had very patient teammates and I was determined to learn the game quickly. I had a blast! As an adult, especially an inexperienced non-athlete like me, running around like a little kid felt very much out of my comfort zone. I must have looked pretty silly, but I didn’t care because the fact is, I couldn’t stop smiling and giggling! My face hurt from smiling so much. It felt great! I felt like a little kid – carefree – going after a ball that seemed to ping-pong all over that field. I was hooked! Not only did soccer help get me in shape, but I got that wonderful natural high from running around. An added bonus was that I made a lot of pretty cool women friends. Soccer is one of those sports that only gets better if you work as a team.
It’s been ten years – yes TEN – and I couldn’t imagine life without my weekly soccer game nor my fabulous teammates. In my ten years, I’ve learned a thing or two about soccer. Here is my collective wisdom – take it or leave it – for women want to join in on the fun, but never played before:
- You don’t have to buy indoor soccer shoes immediately. Save your money and use tennis shoes for the first few games, until you decide that soccer’s for you. Then, shop around for the best price because some places charge a ridiculous amount;
- Warm up and stretch! Especially — stretch your quads a few days before your first game. Soccer involves A LOT of sprinting, which you may not be used to. This means you’ll be using muscles you haven’t used too much — particularly your quads. Learn about stretching them from other team mates or Google it. The thing is — avoid straining your quads or any muscles if you can. I wish someone had given me this advice because my quads put me out of commission for most of a game and it was PAINFUL just to walk;
- Be sure to read all the rules of the game. Boring, I know. However. You may think you know them because you’ve watched plenty of your kids’ games; however, indoor and outdoor soccer rules are different. Also, knowing the rules will help you avert doing the wrong thing, which could give your team a penalty.
- If you’re huffing and puffing, like I was, then consider soccer your motivation to work out during the rest of the week so that you build endurance. You do get a chance to substitute out every few minutes, in indoor soccer, but the sprinting is full on and intense. The more endurance you have, the faster you’ll get too. Also, if you’re short on players, you’ll need to play longer so get yourself ready for that;
- Learn from others’ moves and experience. There are women’s clinics. Sign up for one. Practice with your kids and hubby too. You’ll get better and better. It takes time and a lot of PRACTICE. Drills – especially dribbling, passing and shooting, is actually fun and helps you get better.
- Some strategic moves as a defender: pick an opposing offensive player to block and follow her, not the ball; don’t give the ball away; trap it, look up for an open teammate and pass. You can also pass back to your goalie. The thing is – you have to keep your eye on the other player’s body language. They can sneak that ball past you in a heartbeat faster than you can say “wtf?”
- If your teammates are willing, see if you can rent the indoor field for a practice. You can run drills and have a scrimmage.
- Communication is key; let your teammates know you’re open for a pass or that one is coming.
- Be a good sport; it’s okay to get assertive and even a little aggressive when called for, but keep in mind that this is recreational and you don’t want to hurt anyone or act like a brat. There will be people who lose tempers, but keep yours in check and remember it’s a game;
- As a defender, you can still go forward if needed; don’t feel you are limited to your side of the field; If you hang back too far, it gives the other team a chance to come over. If you are mid court, at least, you could keep the ball in that side of the field longer and this gives your team a better chance to score.