Associate editor Lisa Hannam has strapped on her cleats and joined a soccer team. She’s not an athlete’just a woman with a passion for the game and a desire to stay fit while having fun. Follow her Soccer Stories here on the Best Health Blog.
It had been exactly 626 days since I last played outdoor soccer. I ‘retired my cleats’ after a work schedule change meant I would miss the first half of every game. So I quit, using the excuse ‘It’s not convenient.’ But last night I laced up and returned to the pitch, after finding a team that plays once a week at 8 p.m.
I have to admit I had butterflies as I drove to pick up my teammate Jordan. All I could think about was how my muscles would be screaming the next day and how difficult it would be to stand, walk, sit, get up from a chair, breathe… Then what seemed to be radio kismet (or song-play overkill), K’naan‘s ‘Wavin’ Flag,’ the anthem for this year’s World Cup, perked me up. So did my new kicks and shin guards that I got from National Sports (all on sale, by the way).
I’m not what’s known as a ‘skilled’ player (I only started playing soccer at 25). No fancy footwork for me, I just run my butt off. Some of the players were brand-spankin’ new to the sport. I heard another teammate commenting on one of our newbies, ‘You can’t tell she’s never played before because she’s not afraid to get in in the way of the ball.’ That’s the secret: Just play.
Before our game, Jordan’s husband was running a practice and got us doing the following warm-up stretches and drills. You don’t need to play soccer to do any of these; it could work as a warmup for a lower-body workout.
1. Jog one lap around the field. The FIFA-standard soccer field is about 105m long and 68m wide, which means we ran 346 metres.
2. Stretches. For this, we stood in a circle, and each person would lead us through a move of her choice. We ended up doing:
3. Jog around the field in two lines. The last pair sprint past the two lines until they come to the front. Then the resulting last pair sprint to the front, and so on until one lap has been complete.
4. Passing drills. We were put into groups of three. In a line, the two players on the ends each had a soccer ball. To learn each other’s names and practice calling for the ball, the middle player had to call out the name of the person with the ball to receive a pass. She’d then return the ball, turn quickly and call the other player for the ball. We did this 10 times and then switched positions. To kick the ball, we had to do what’s called a two-touch pass, where you stop the ball with your foot and then kick it. Then we did a round with one-touch passes, and another of two-touch.
By the time my game started, I was ready to run and I didn’t hit a wall. And today, I’m feeling no pain.