Tag Archives: soccer

Stepping Off the Pitch

Spring, 1978

That spring I played my first soccer game. I was 8 and it was the first season for a girls’ soccer league in Bel Air, MD, where I lived at the time. I don’t recall much about it except that I scored once and played goalie a little bit, a position that I continued to play throughout my career. I do remember scoring the goal – I ran upfield and my eyes started watering and I couldn’t really see but I kicked the ball and it went in the net. Nothing spectacular, but, well, we were 8.

In the net my first season. I think I was praying that they wouldn't score!

In the net my first season. I think I was praying that they wouldn’t score!

Spring, 2015

Last night I played my last soccer game. 37 years and countless games later; I am hanging up my boots and retiring from the beautiful game. The reasons are three-fold, as I explained to my coach:

  • Less time available to play on weeknights, with teaching and my son’s later practice times;
  • Games taking a more physical toll on my admittedly aging body; and
  • Less enjoyment from playing. I am simply not having as much fun as I used to, likely due to #1 and 2 above.
Schooling my brother in the front yard.

Schooling my brother in the front yard

Shinguards not required.  And nice short shorts. Ah, the 80s...

    Shinguards not required. And nice short shorts. Ah, the 80s…











I started playing with our coach, Lou, when my son was 6 weeks old. He is now 13. He grew up on the sidelines, watching one or both of his parents run around like crazy people. He turned me into a true soccer mom – the mom who set her child up in his stroller to sleep while she played. The mom who passed her child off to his dad as they subbed on and off the field during a game. The mom who, as she ran down the field chasing the ball, yelled to the sidelines for her son to get off the top of the bleachers. Parenting from the field. Don’t think you’ll find a book on how to do that.

Our captain and I after my last game.

Our captain and I after my last game.

It’s funny – I used to define myself by the fact that I played soccer. It was something different than most other “adults” did (except, of course, all the other adults who also played soccer). It was my social life in my 20s when I played 4-5 times a week. Soccer kept me in shape. I traveled to play in tournaments to places like Vegas and… Johnstown, PA (ok, so Vegas was a bit more of a rush). I met so many cool and interesting people playing soccer. I met my husband playing soccer.

Playing in Vegas.

Playing in Vegas.

Today, I am starting to redefine myself without soccer. I am not sure yet what exactly will take its place, but I have some ideas. I certainly won’t sit still.

I am sure there will be times when I’ll miss playing. But I have so many great memories from my years on the pitch and I’ll always count myself lucky that I got to play the beautiful game for so many years.

And my enjoyment of the game won’t end, especially not this summer. Women’s World Cup, baby! Let’s go USA!!!!

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An Academy Award Performance

I had a soccer game last night and it has gotten me thinking not about goals or passes or saves or even throw-ins. It got me thinking about dives.

I found this definition on Wikipedia (a source I will not allow my students to use as a resource but I feel in no way hypocritical for using it here) – In football (soccer)diving (simulation is the term used by FIFASchwalbe (German) is a popular term) is an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by diving to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed.

Now I have heard many people complain about all the diving and theatrics in professional soccer and some won’t watch it because it is so bad. I agree – it is way too prevalent and I do think it diminishes the game a lot. But even at the coed recreational old people league, there are those who use the dive and use it all the time.

Midair dive

Look! He hit me from behind and then ran in front and pushed me and I fell down.

I hate these people.

Last night a guy on the other team completely faked a takedown in the box and ended up earning a penalty kick. For those of you who don’t know, penalty kicks, or PKs, are very hard to stop and often result in a goal. So we were down 1-0 and this guy got positive reinforcement for cheating. He had, just prior to this acting gig, tried to accuse me of tripping him. We both went for the ball and we both got there at the same time. Somehow, he fell and kicked me in the knees on his way down. The ref did not call anything but this guy was on the ground a few yards from me like I had laid the best NFL tackle on him and then stomped on his chest, just for good measure. Now, I can be aggressive and I do admit to knocking down that chick later in the game (she was in my way, in my defense), but I did not touch that guy. I shoulda known that he’d pull it again (and again and again).

This doesn’t just happen in soccer, but also in hockey and probably in most other contact sports. Maybe it even happens in baseball, although I’m not sure what advantage it might give you there. And while I get that a good dive can result in a penalty that will give your team an advantage, I just don’t know how these divers can feel at all good about themselves or think they earned any goals or points they may get as a result. Because really, it is cheating.

Of course, maybe I am just jealous since I can’t dive if my life depended on it. First, I really don’t want to fall on the turf – have you ever had turf burn? Hurts like hell. Second, I freakin’ want the ball so if you do run into me or try to knock me down, I do everything I can to stay on my feet and get that ball (and if you had tried to hit me, I may also offer a little payback as I get near you, but you did it first!). And lastly, I don’t have much on the pitch, but I do have my pride. And diving/cheating would take that away, too.

Or maybe it’s that I don’t have any acting skills and any attempt to get away with anything like that would likely result in me looking really foolish. Acting lessons might help. I’ll have to give that some consideration. And then prepare my acceptance speech.

“I’d like to thank the Academy…”

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I’m a Runner

Muddy and wet after a race

Muddy and wet after a race

I harbor a (no longer so) secret desire to be featured in the “I’m a Runner” column that is at the end of each issue of Runner’s World (I also want to be one of the super cool women shown in the Title Nine catalog but that is another story).

Since I doubt it will happen anytime soon, I am writing my own entry.

I’m a Runner

I started running as a kid to get into shape for my first love, soccer. My father used to run a lot and I’d go out with him for a two-mile loop around the neighborhood.

I became a “runner” when I joined the track and cross-country teams in high school. I went out for track to get in shape for the spring soccer season, but found my home there and never looked back.

I still sometimes look over my shoulder for my XC coach’s gray car when I am out for a run. He’d follow us to see how we were doing (and to make sure we weren’t goofing off). I’m still working hard, John.

My first longer-distance race was a half marathon. Sometime during my month of bed rest before my son’s birth I agreed to the race, figuring it would get me back in shape. Six months, almost to the day, after he was born, via C-section no less, I toed up at the start line like a crazy person.

That race was pretty miserable. It poured for the first 7-8 miles and then I hit mile 9. Not having gotten beyond 9 miles during my training, I had to stop and walk the last bit. But I made it across the finish line!

I’ve since run a couple more halfs, a marathon, and a bunch of 10-milers. I’ve even dabbled in the “extreme” races, complete with electric shocks and ice water.

I still play soccer and running keeps me in shape for that, but now I mainly run for the sake of running. It is my quiet time, my “me” time, and my chance to keep pushing myself.

A great run is a feeling you can’t replicate. The high is real and it feels like you are walking on clouds. Of course, not all runs are great but even a sucky run is better than no run at all. Usually.

I hope someday my son will embrace running like his dad and I have. It truly is a lifelong habit and something I think we can all enjoy together. At a minimum, he’ll have to start running to get in shape for his first love, hockey. Life is so circular.

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