This past summer over 100 women joined a social media group to be part of a new, non-aggressive rec soccer league (Part 1). Rough play might have minimized by strengthening rules or removing aspects of the game that foster competition, but those changes didn’t happen (Part 2).
Given that the league, the rules, and the teams were going to stay the same, I was a bit doubtful that a truly “chill” rec soccer game would happen. However, it’s been a few months into the season, and I have noticed three differences from seasons past.
Shared effort to support friendly play
The FB “+40 Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Soccer,” posts are public to members. This means transparency: players have seen most of what had gone on in terms of planning the league. Group members were encouraged to self-organize: find others with a similar “chill” mindset, assign themselves to teams, volunteer as captains, and make other decisions. Consequently, there has been a shared investment in the building of the league.
As I described in Part 1 and Part 2, the entire FB group was polled a few times during set up time, giving everyone say about what was important to them. For instance, folks were given a choice about whether they wanted control over their team rosters OR game times to play.
The majority of the group selected roster control over time and team number limits. This democratic and transparent approach allowed players to feel that their choices mattered.
Now during the season, teams have also gone back to saying good game after the match is over, a tradition of goodwill that has finally resumed after COVID.
Leadership and communication
The building/league manager has vocalized his support of this group. Just before the season began, a league meeting was held for all players—not just captains—to remind everyone about the rules that penalize rough play. The FB group was used to communicate these messages and invites.
Cindy and the team captains have had their own private FB communication channel. Competitors off the field, yet social on social media while off the field. I am told this additional communication among the team leaders has helped to reinforce the goodwill expected from players and teams.
As well, the FB group members had advocated for more women officiants for the games, and now we have a female referee who I have been told makes many calls during the game. So, the league has listened and responded to some communicated requests.
Accountability and commitment to “chill”
When the league was eventually finalized at the end of the summer, with 7 full teams, it truly felt like a group effort. And it was cause for celebration.
At the same time, Cindy, the group and chill league’s originator, encouraged everyone to continue to be be vigilant and accountable in regards to aggressive behaviour on the pitch. For example, she has encouraged us to take immediate action if play seems too rough:
So far, I have seen some apologizing for rough play when it occasionally happens. Refusing to play is probably a tough decision for a team to make in the middle of the game, and something I haven’t seen so far.
What’s next for the chill league
I admit I was in the minority on the polls, as I assumed that the game itself needed to change to reduce aggression. But maybe a soccer community borne of a shared “will to chill” is enough for us. I hope that fun and friendliness is what continues throughout our season.
I want to leave the last words of this post series to Cindy, who started it all:
“The only thing I wanted to gain from this was to bring women together again, in a sport that so many of us love, but have felt threatened by those that think there is something to gain from being overly aggressive at the age of 40+.
I have been injured, and I know others who have been injured too. I was going to stop playing, but really didn't want to.
I love the community that is being created in the group, even just by the teams all having a chance to speak with one another, off the pitch.”