“How soccer keeps us fit and healthy.”

For over 20 years, Martina Collins has been playing soccer to stay fit’and having a blast while she does it

Source: Best Health Magazine, Summer 2009

Sometimes the goofiest events in life can contribute to your overall good health. For me, those occasions usually involve my soccer team, with our strange penchant for dressing up in costumes at tournaments’we were recently pirates of the Caribbean’our love of anything orange (one of our club’s colours), and our ability to laugh at ourselves.

Of course, there’s also the thrill of the competitive soccer that I’ve played for more than 20 years with the Meraloma Club team in the Classics/Over 30 Gold Division in Vancouver. This team has been successful and we attribute it to our incredible synergy’the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that all of those different parts are valued.

Our synergy is fueled by our on-field complementary skills and dedication, and our off-field celebrations. It has netted us the gold medal at the World Masters Championships in Australia in 2002, the gold medal at the over-35 Canadian national championships in 2007, and a silver medal at that same event in 2008.

My teammates’women who range in age from 37 to 50’work in fields as diverse as construction, education and law; and we have close to 30 children among us. We love this sport but, in particular, we love each other. We book soccer and non-soccer holidays together; camping at B.C.’s Golden Ears Provincial Park has become an annual event.

I’m in the best emotional and physical health I could ever wish for thanks to this team. When I join my teammates and push my body to the physical limits that soccer always demands, it’s such a rush. The weekly training and games keep us all lean, fit and, as we grow older, humble. That’s because while soccer may bring out our inner warrior princesses, all of the bruises, sprained ankles and knee surgeries remind us to respect our bodies and live in the moment, whether on the field or in the beer garden afterwards.

I hit the ‘big 4-0’ this year and can’t believe I joined this soccer team 23 years ago! My teammates have always been a stable force in my life. These friends have seen me through the diagnosis of celiac disease, the loss of my parents, the birth of my son (now 10) and my divorce.

I’ve seen many team members come and go, but for the past 10 years, it’s been the same core group. I can’t imagine not kicking the ball around with them, seeking and offering advice, venting frustrations and, most of all, just laughing so hard we cry.

Martina Collins is communications coordinator for BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. Pictured: Martina Collins (left) loves this sport that burns 500 calories an hour, helps strengthen bones and yields such strong friendships.