I am so sore today. Not from an 8 mile run I did on Sunday or the weight training I did on Monday morning but from playing back to back soccer games Monday night. I am in the NYC Social GenX Co-ed Soccer League. I joined a team, Sudden Death, last Fall after taking a few years off from social sports. I was never a fan of playing team sports when I was younger. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy softball or basketball, but playing made me so nervous and self-conscious, I feared I was never good enough.
I didn’t play any team sports from about 11 years old until I was 26. When I finished up Graduate School I thought it would be fun to join a soccer team as a way to meet new people. Two of my co-workers at that time also joined in and we were put on a team with a whole bunch of people we had never met. I had never played soccer on a team before but at that point in my life I didn’t care too much if I was terrible, I just wanted to play. I also thought of it as another way to sneak some extra exercise into my week without it feeling like a workout. The team, Gotham United, went 0-8 that season but we had a blast. After every game we were the first team to the bar, congratulating our opponents when they walked in the door. Since several games were happening at once, the neighborhood bars were well stocked with players.
I played soccer for several seasons and though I never got much better, I always enjoyed running around for 40 minutes like a kid. Teammates came and went, some seasons we were better than others, but as far as workouts go, it was much less work and much more fun. My busy schedule eventually got the best of me and I had to quit for a while but a few months ago I decided I wanted to start up again. When I saw that NYC Social had a league for people over 30 years old, I was intrigued. It had the potential to be just what I was looking for or it could be boring and less social than I wanted. This time I had didn’t have any other friends to join with me so I was put on a team of total strangers. The league, and my team, did not disappoint.
After playing a season of outdoor soccer the team decided to sign up for a winter indoor league. As far as exercise goes, in a lot of ways I think playing indoor soccer is much more intense. Since the ball never goes out of bounds, there’s not much time to take a rest. Players are constantly running up and down the court, chasing after the ball. I found myself pretty sore the day after my first indoor game. What I had considered a “rest” day was now more like an “active day off.”
This past Monday was our playoff game and if we won, we’d play the championship game the same night. While we obviously wanted to win the idea of playing two games seemed daunting. After we won our playoff game we had 45 minutes rest before the second game. Our team seemed visibly tired after the first game (or maybe I’m just projecting!) so I felt like our chances of having enough energy to win the second game was pretty slim. However, I think the opposite ended up happening. We were clearly warmed up from our first game and we were gelled as a group.
Every single player upped their intensity in that second game – go big or go home as they say. Even though these leagues I play on aren’t really competitive, its much more about being social, you always want to win. We came away winners that night, but even if we hadn’t, we would have been at the bar later that evening tipping our hat to our opponents.
That intensity has translated into two days of very sore muscles. In addition to my quads that normally take a beating, body parts like my ankles and toes are incredibly sore. I also have a few bumps and bruises that go along with playing a physical game.
Over the years I also tried playing on social leagues for softball and flag football but never got the same enjoyment out of those sports. I don’t feel like I get enough of a workout playing softball and some people take it too seriously for my taste. Flag football allows me to run around but only for very very short bursts. I don’t just love playing soccer, I also tend to jive better with other soccer players. Twenty five years after most kids find their team sport, I have found my group. Win or lose, we always have fun.
Social sports leagues aren’t for everyone. What have your experiences been?