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Adult League Soccer

Get up, get out and have fun

Posted: March 6, 2009 3:38 p.m.
Updated: March 6, 2009 1:00 p.m.

Adult League Soccer is catching on in the SCV.

 

They gathered in a loose cluster, waiting with nervous smiles. Some seemed preoccupied with their equipment, some with their children.

Some were just receiving their "jerseys" - T-shirts with numbers on the back - fresh out of the box.

Some of them had done this before, in other settings. The others were new to it.

There was an air of anticipation, mixed with... what - fear?

But what could they be afraid of at Central Park on a Sunday afternoon?

Soccer!

"I've never in my life played soccer before," said Andrea Murphy, of Canyon Country. "I have no clue. It's kind of scary."

"I never played any organized sports in my life," said Barbara Allison, of Saugus.

Murphy and Allison were forming up with their teammates on a gloomy Feb. 22 for the start of Central Park's adult soccer league season. The upcoming game would be the first-ever for their coed team called The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

The youngest team member was Seema Shah, the coach, at 27. Most were in their 30s, and Murphy, 40, was relieved to find out that Allison, 41, was the oldest.

Most of the team members said they were out to have fun and get exercise.

Murphy added that she wanted to try something new.

Will Huddleston, a graphic designer from Valencia, who would be the goalkeeper starting this, the team's first game, against Newcastle FC, said he had never actually played keeper before, but had played soccer as a kid. "But nothing in the last 20 years," he said. "It should be interesting."

The experience level ranged from those with absolutely none, up to Zane Clark, 34, who had played soccer in high school and college. His wife Patty Clark, 34, was also on the team, and said she had played soccer briefly, "six or seven years ago."

"Half the team never played soccer before," Shah said.

Consequently, fear seemed to be the overall scent in the air, and as the team moved out toward the field, looking over their opponents, someone whined, "Their girls are bigger than our guys!"

An active town
Cynthia Tarver is the adult sports supervisor for the city of Santa Clarita. She said the adult soccer program was begun in 2005.

Two soccer "seasons" are offered through the city program, with the spring season starting in February and the fall season starting in September. The seasons last for 10 weeks and then there is a one-week playoff period for each.

At this time there is a men's soccer league and a coed soccer league. The minimum age to participate is 16.

Tarver said that during this spring season there were 12 teams in the coed league and six in the men's. "Resident" teams pay $449 to join the league and "non-resident" teams (of which there are none this spring) pay $494. "How teams go about getting their money is at their discretion," Tarver said. "Maybe they have sponsors."

She added that the city provides the soccer goals, nets and field maintenance.

The referees are certified by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and contracted. The two teams playing in each game split the cost of the referees and pay them before the game. Referee teams for the men's games are paid $110 ($55 per team) and for the coed games $90 ($45 per team).

"Our main goal is to offer a recreational, structured, fun league," Tarver said.

She added that soccer is just one of many sports programs the city provides for youth and adults, and that a new Ultimate Frisbee league will begin on March 22. All sports have "free-agent" lists, through which individuals can find teams to play on.

The details on the sports programs are available online at www.santa-clarita.com but you can call (661) 250-3700 for more information.

The game
As The Good, The Bad And The Ugly gathered on the east side of their field before the game, Shah filled them in on who would be starting the game at which positions. She, herself, would sit out for awhile, as she was nursing a pulled muscle and didn't want to aggravate it.

Huddleston explained that Shah was the driving force for getting everyone on the team, including several of her relatives. "There are a lot of Shahs on the team," he said.

In fact, many of the team members noted Seema Shah's persistence in recruiting them. Jamie Pence, 30, said she used to play soccer for Canyon High School but that it had been 10 years since she had touched a ball. Thus she was, like other team members, reluctant to join. "We got kind of finagled into it, but now I'm OK," she said. "Our coach is a relentless recruiter."

Anthony Arguello, 31, felt similarly and said, "Seema made me do it."

Allison said she told Shah no twice before she gave in. "But I'm glad she forced me," she said.

For her part, Seema Shah said she had played soccer as a child and on intramural teams in college. And what was her motivation for forming the team? "I thought we'd have a lot of fun," she said.

Though nervous during warms-ups, her team members did seem to be having fun. Meanwhile, friends and non-playing family members gathered on the sideline near the team, seemingly unsure of what to expect. "My family said they wanted to embarrass me," Patty Clark said.

In no time the game was underway. Each half would be a long 40 minutes (45 in men's games). Almost from the beginning, Newcastle FC dominated, with the ball being played deep in TGTBATU's end of the field most of the time. Despite a couple good saves by Huddleston, his team was soon down 0-2.

On the sidelines the friends and fans watched in a subdued fashion, politely cheering for their players.
Allison's family sat three-in-row, including her husband Dean, daughter Cassie, 17, and son Steven, 14.

Matt Pence (Jamie's husband) pushed their 1-year-old daughter Ashley in her stroller, cooing to her, "See Mommie play." And Jamie Pence was pretty good.

Everyone on TGTBATU gave it all they had, including some real hustle from the inexperienced players. Yet, they were behind 0-4 at half time. Still, they come off the field smiling.

During the halftime break, Seema Shah discussed some line-up changes, including the addition of the fresh legs of Jerry Citarella, 40, who had just arrived after watching "Disney's High School Musical" at the Canyon Theatre Guild. Everyone was glad to see him, and when asked if that was because of his soccer skill, he said no. "I never played soccer before, but I still have energy," he explained.

The second half went a bit better for TGTBATU, and they even had a couple scoring chances. Seema Shah got the spirit and played some minutes without re-injuring her leg. Some very acrobatic saves by Zane Clark kept it close - and he even blocked a penalty kick (handball in the box). But, in the end, the score was 0-6.

And though the TGTBATU players dragged off the field after congratulating Newcastle FC, there were still tired smiles on their faces.

Both keepers, Huddleston and Clark, sported big red scrapes on their legs, but no one was seriously hurt.

Jay Peterson said, "Eighty minutes is a long time," yet everyone agreed they had fun and would be back again.

Barbara Allison said, "It was fun. I survived. I will know what to expect next time."

With regard to playing keeper, Huddleston said, "I definitely have a lot of work to do." But he'd had fun, too, and appreciated the real game experience - "people really shooting at you."

The team members ended the day discussing drinks afterward and joking about how "old" they all were.

And as one final blow to their confidence, someone said that players on the Newcastle FC team had admitted that Newcastle was the worst team in the league. If that had been true, TGTBATU now held that dubious honor.

But there was always next Sunday.

Shah was happy with her team and said, "I didn't expect anything other than to have fun, and we had a blast."

 

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