Soccer Anyone?

soccer girls

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.

Happy?

happy face

What makes you happy? It’s different for everyone I suppose. The easy response would be, perhaps, a sunny day, a warm hug, an unexpected windfall, a great glass of wine. It’s a pretty loaded question really. It could be something life encompassing or it could be something tiny and seemingly insignificant. This morning listening to the Eagles Live album really loudly in the car made me happy. Sleep, chocolate, a new pair of shoes.  Those things seem so fleeting though. What sustains happiness, long term?

Over the years I have discovered that my happiness is very closely tied to my physical well being. If I feel good physically I am happy. If I’m tired, have an upset stomach or haven’t worked out in a few days, I can feel myself slipping into an unhappy place. I think this is true for most people and really it’s just simple biology. The act of getting your heart pumping and the endorphins flowing, puts a smile on most people’s faces. So why can’t we just spend our days out running or hiking on the trails? There. Problem solved. Happiness all around.

Then there is the saying money can’t buy you happiness. No, it can’t. But it can alleviate the anxiety and stress that go with a mountain of debt. I’m not ashamed to say that I am happier now than I was a few years ago when we were struggling to make ends meet. We don’t have any more “things” than we did then, but we argue less and worry less and in turn, are, I believe, happier. Do I envy people who have more than I do and think that having all that would make me happy. You bet. I know it’s materialistic and there are many people who have nothing and are extremely happy. I’m just not one of them.

When I reached out to friends to see what makes them happy, without a doubt, the most common answer was friends and family. Kids laughing, connecting with friends, time with spouses are all major happiness factors.  In no particular order here are a few examples of the responses I got.  They really are some of The Best Things in Life.  Sunshine, nature, wine, travel, napping, sex, cold beer on a hot day, love, chocolate, exercise. Of course one of my friends turned if around on me and asked me what made me happy. On that day? Seeing my inbox full of happy emails. Learning more about my friends and their joys in life.

An old friend commented that she was happiest when she knows that her interests and ideas are being supported by those closest to her. But then in the next breath she wonders if it’s right to leave her happiness in the hands of others. “I shouldn’t rely on others to make me happy”. This is something I struggle with as well. I have tried not to be a “gold star junkie” as Gretchen Rubin terms it in The Happiness Project. When you rely on others to pat you on the back or give you a gold star for your achievements you are, in essence, keeping score, and rarely come out on top. Am I successful in this? Let’s just say I’m working on it.

100 Happy Days is an on line project that has been around for a while. I was hiking with a friend a few weeks ago who was on day 56. The premise is that you email an image to their website every day for 100 days that symbolizes happiness to you. I would imagine that by the time you reach 100 days it would have become a habit for you to find something each day, no matter how small or insignificant, that makes you happy. A bit like a gratification post. I think that I’m going to try the 100 Happy Days project. It may be a good reminder to me of how many great things I encounter each day that make me smile. I also find that “having a clear vision and taking steps towards it every day” makes me happy as well.

Can you be happy all the time? I don’t think you can and I think that’s totally okay. Of course it’s not okay to be unhappy all the time either. The key is to find the right balance for you. The right mix or percentage of happiness . Over thinking things makes me happy too. It’s an odd thing, actually, to stop and really think about whether you are happy or not. People have made billions in the self help industry telling us what we need to do to be happy. Why do we need to read a book about it? Shouldn’t we just BE happy? Can it be that simple?

So at the end of the day did I find my answer? No. But I did start thinking more about my happiness and the happiness of others and that in itself is good.   One of the surprising emails I received was from a friend I hope to meet with very soon to talk about her passions. I totally expected her to say decorating cakes and being on my bike with my dog. What did I get instead? A great quote to close my post .

“I am happiest when I am continually striving for my potential in life.”