It’s Monday night, 7:15pm at the all weather field at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver. My friend Sarina and I are sitting on the grass talking about the Women’s Only Soccer Program she runs. As we chat, women start to trickle in across the park. Some come with a friend, some come alone and some come in groups. It’s the first night of Sarina’s ABC’s of Soccer summer session program and a couple of the women are noticeably a bit nervous. Sarina introduces herself and encourages the women to start kicking a ball around. They are all shapes and sizes and ages and fitness levels looking to learn some skills and play some soccer.
Sarina started the Women’s Only Soccer Camps in 2002. Two things got her there. She had recently changed careers and was looking for something to compliment the somewhat rigid life of banking. At the same time she was playing soccer in a local over 30 women’s league. She would see women come out who wanted to play in the league but didn’t have much, if any, experience. They had the desire but got zero support and encouragement and ended up not returning. She felt it was such a shame that these women, who were looking for some fun exercise, were walking away, when it would be so easy to give them a little training and the tools to let them enjoy playing on a league team. So Sarina created the Women’s Only Soccer program that runs every Monday night in West Vancouver.
I was introduced to the program about six years ago. I hadn’t played in years but was looking for a good workout after my daughter was born. Even though I knew some other ladies already, I still felt kind of nervous that first night and totally useless once I got out onto the field. Two things stick out in my mind from that first adventure back into soccer. First, I ran my ass off and couldn’t walk properly for a couple of days. Talk about a whole body work out. Second, I felt so empowered. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my husband when I got home. It was fun, exhilarating, challenging, exhausting and oh ya, so fun! Even when I sprained my ankle in my second session I couldn’t wait to get back out there.
As the women gather in a small circle Sarina goes over a couple of things. “I don’t care if your are late and I don’t care if you have to leave early.” She just wants them to show up and have fun. After a few quick safety points, she asks them to each quickly introduce themselves and describe their level of soccer. Some women have been in her program for years, some play in a league and are looking to improve their skills, some haven’t played since they were ten and some have never kicked a soccer ball in their life. Everybody is welcome and everybody is included. The women were immediately put at ease just knowing that they were not alone. As they head off for a quick warm up lap of the field they are already chatting and getting to know each other. Did I mention how fun this program was?
Before the women showed up, Sarina and I got a chance to talk about why the program is so successful. There are a lot of reasons. To start, women are having kids later in life and don’t always have a lot of options for finding a fun, unintimidating workout that fits into their busy lives. With the Women’s Only Soccer Program there isn’t a huge time or financial commitment and the timing allows the moms to slip out the door after the kids are in bed. One of the biggest attractions, I think, is that there is no judgement what so ever. Nobody cares if you score a goal or if you pass the ball to an empty space or if you can do perfect throw in. Last week a women showed up that Sarina used to play with. She knew the woman was an accomplished player and wondered, at first, what she was doing at a scrimmage league. At the end of the evening the woman mention what a great time she had. Sarina realized that it wasn’t about the level of play or the skills achieved for this woman. It was about the environment, the workout and the fun.
At the heart of this amazing program is Sarina’s coaching style and approach to women’s soccer. Women show up week after week because they know they will learn the basics of soccer in a fun, encouraging environment and that is so important. Really it’s one of The Best Things in Life for me. If you are interested in meeting some great women, learning soccer and having so much fun, I encourage you to contact Sarina and join her one Monday night on the field. I plan on doing it again very soon.