Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Soccer, Vancouver Style

As many of you know, finding a soccer team in Vancouver was high on my list of things that needed to be done to facilitate the move. Most of the leagues I found were in the Metro area, which seems to have meant either one or two bodies of water to cross, which seemed suboptimal. Then I found an over-30's league in Burnaby, about 30 minutes from campus (when there is no traffic, like at 6:30 AM on Sunday morning, but we'll come back to that). And the Burnaby Strikers took pity on this Boston transplant and let her join their team.

However, they used some words that were only vaguely familiar to me -- things like "practice," "coach," and "45 minutes before game time for warm-up." This had me terrified.

Now our season opener was scheduled at 8:00 AM (remember 30 minutes away), and this "coach" person wanted us there 45 minutes early. I trust you can all do the math.

Next, recall that this is Vancouver, and the greeting I received was a week of rain upon my arrival. Fortunately, rain Vancouver style seems to be periodic drizzles followed by no drizzles, followed by drizzles, lather, rinse repeat.  So, as I'm driving to the game, I'm thinking, "You know, in this weather, having some kind of tent/awning would be really helpful..."

I get to the field around 7:05 and there are 3-4 players there already. I get my cleats on and head down to the field. People are nicely friendly and don't look quite as young as the picture made them seem (the manager sent me a picture so I'd recognize the team and the person who had my shirt). That said, I'm pretty sure I have a decade on most everyone and maybe two on many of them. By 7:15, we have ten players or so and this "coach" person has not shown up.  So, we take a lap together -- very slowly. I am greatly relieved -- I can handle this.

By 7:30, this "coach" person, hereafter referred to as Byron, shows up and I start to get nervous. However, it turns out that part of the reason for the early start is to A) put up a net, B) put out the corner flags, and C) raise the tent!  Hey -- I like these women!

Better yet, this warm up thing is actually mostly another term I have almost forgotten called "stretching" (Susan Boyle, this one's for you). We take a half lap together as a team (another nice slow one) and then do a bunch of 10-yard out and back stretching and warmup and then finally some jogging and sprinting. It wasn't nearly as terrifying as I had imagined (i.e., way mellower than Bruiser warmups back in the day, and perhaps much better suited for my "well-over-30" self).

I learn that the team was basically rebooted two years ago with Byron and some of the players hadn't played before, although some are clearly quite experienced. By the time the game starts, I'm feeling pretty comfortable. We are playing a team that traditionally clobbers us, but they remind me a lot of the Breakers from EMSWL -- on the older side, but highly trained and familiar with one another's play. Nonetheless, we do well against them. I am alternating in 5-minute shifts with a wing fullback, so I'll play roughly half a game -- seems perfect for my first time out with the crew.

We play a 4-4-2 with a flat back line (as opposed to a sweeper/stopper formation).  And we play zone, instead of man to man -- this takes me awhile to fully embrace. In any case, it feels pretty good on the field, and we come away with a 1-0 win. I think I know names of perhaps over half the players -- maybe even two-thirds or three-quarters. The team is friendly and supportive, and feels almost chuck-like in some ways.

Feeling much, much better about my soccer career here. Now I just have to work out the transportation thing. Fortunately, there are multiple car-sharing services ... stay tuned for automotive adventures!

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