When my son was four years old I kicked the soccer ball around with him in the park every day.
I have played just about every sport known to humanity since I started winter softball at the age of eight.
Turns out I am a positive deviant in this regard (as in others, but one issue at a time). I was the youngest of four children, and my parents had a shared belief in the salvation of team sport for their children. This was the nineteen seventies. Not bad for two people who met on a tennis court.*
So I was happy with my little boy: kicking and kicking and passing and chasing and thinking – “this is a great game – one ball, two people with little ability, still having fun and getting puffed”.
At a playdate, one of his friend’s mums told me about a new business that had started in our area that ran indoor soccer training for little kids. Funny name – Futsal. Five-a-side indoor soccer brand from Brazil. Half an hour sessions for the short in concentration span and the time-poor.
Maxie loved it!
Ten years later my (now) fifteen year old son is still playing with his original team – the longest running one in the competition – the Flying Foxes [they won their division on the weekend].
And then. Early on, the wife part of the husband and wife team that started the futsal business (and still run it – thought they have three centres now), asked me to play. I laughed it off – nah.**
When I think back I can’t remember what got me along to the first open training session on a Saturday morning. There were a mixture of women and men and quite a few newbies. My cardio fitness was pretty good at the time, but this was fun exercise – and hard work!
I kept going to training and maybe only a few weeks later, one of the women who was training asked me to join her new women’s team – Medusa. We were women in our forties – some of us had played organised sport before – others not. One of the women was in my new parent’s group when our daughters were babies, another woman lived in the next street. Most of us had kids playing too.
And boy oh boy, were we ordinary?!!
It took us a few weeks to actually score a goal. It took a whole season to win a game. But onward we plugged, every Thursday night and training when we could.
We got better and we had moments of elegance and even some one-two passes in triangles (sorry technical talk there – triangle formations are often the key to the game – it disrupts the defence and involves lots of running and receiving the ball while moving – doesn’t look difficult, but is difficult).One season we made the finals.
So why am I still training twice a week and playing most days?
The bottom line about playing team sport (futsal for me) is that it’s a really fun way to exercise, you lose yourself in the intricacy of the game, you have to concentrate in a way that is different to work and other bits of life. The game takes 40 minutes. It makes me happy!
Also – when you make a mistake in futsal , the game moves on immediately – no time for regrets – you literally have to move on.
Hooray for that.
I think that’s especially good for us women. One of my teams joked about having a “sorry jar”. We also worked on having a “no sorry” team policy during the game. Plenty of time to apologise later – if you could even remember by then what you were sorry for.
Futsal is especially wonderful for active participation. There are only four people on the court (as well as the goalie – who can actually take a pretty active role too) so we often say that in futsal there is “no-where to hide”. There is no doubt that the best teams make the most use of all their players on court. Regardless of skill level or gender. Everyone has a role to play. Even me. Still. For life.
Jen is a midwife and a PhD student who lives in Melbourne Australia. Her research is about breastfeeding support. she blogs on midwifery, breastfeeding and mothering at http://jenhock.com. Jen is also the mother of two teenagers. She has always played sport and took up soccer and running in her forties. She has a mild addiction to the game called Futsal which she plays most days. She thinks about sport as a metaphor for life most days too.