How I Learned To Play Soccer And Love The Ball

I am not what you call graceful and athletic. When I told my friends/parents/significant other that I was joining a co-ed soccer team they laughed. I mean, my mom laughed. In my face. And my mom is a professional guidance counselor and is aware of what laughing in your kid’s face does to their self-esteem. So, yeah, not many people expected that I would stick with it. But three years and nine seasons later, I am actually a soccer team captain. And I couldn’t be happier. I initially joined the league after stumbling upon a neighborhood game one day. The game I spotted — played on a half-field rather than a whole field — was fast and fun, but not so overly athletic that I couldn’t imagine my uncoordinated self on the pitch. I immediately ran home, found the league online, and signed up. I then coerced my friend Jess into joining along with me, and we became two of Gotham United’s defensive players.

I was never a team sports person. I never played in school or college and barely ever with the neighborhood kids. So yes, it was strange and slightly intimidating taking the field for the first time at 28. My first season, our team hardly scored, and we didn’t win any games. We were terrible, and specifically I was terrible. I couldn’t follow the ball, couldn’t kick well, was easily flustered and often let passes go right by me. Honestly, I’m not much better now, but I have learned to have fun with it — and have allowed myself to feel more calm and collected on the field, which leads to better playing.

Over time, our team has coalesced and learned how to play together better. It helps that we spend more time off the pitch in the bar than we do on the field any given week. Make no mistake — we play hard — but we also know that winning isn’t as important as having a good time with your friends. And that’s another thing — through playing soccer, I’ve made some amazing friends I might not have otherwise met. So what if I had to be kicked in the head by a soccer ball a few times in the process?

I love soccer and I love my team — but soccer might not be the right sport for you. Whatever sport you do:

Find a sport that works for you. Soccer isn’t for everyone. Neither is rock-climbing. But there is a sport or activity that’s right for your skill and ambition level, promise.

Bring friends. But not too many friends, because sports are also a great way to meet new people.

Have fun. Yes, our team is competitive and we like to win games. But we’re actually more interested in the post-game beer and chat sessions than we are with winning a stupid plastic trophy.

Tell us: Have you ever played competitive sports?

Photo: iStockphoto

The “Love Your Body” section and all articles within it are sponsored by Crystal Light; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.