Adults get their kicks

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2007

FRANKLIN—Western Tidewater may be known as football country, but soccer is alive and kicking, too — at least at the adult level.

The J.L. Camp Jr. YMCA is providing an opportunity for adults to play soccer on Monday nights through August.

Softball is the traditional recreational sport for adults, but the Y adult soccer league has nine teams and more than 100 players, with a waiting list of 30, according to the players.

“All players are registered with the YMCA and sign a waiver of liability,” said Sarah Strader, program director for the YMCA.

The league, which operates with players from ages 15

into their 40s, runs on an eight-on-eight format on half of a regulation field. The games are fast and can be high-scoring. Many players are former high school players who joined to stay in shape. Others, like Edward Jolley, picked up the sport later in life.

“I’m 46, and we have 15-year-olds on the team I’m on,” Jolley said. “You can see the different skill level. Some people have played all their life. It’s something I picked up in my 30s, coaching my kids when they played. I have enough skills to knock the ball away from people sometimes. Two dribbles and I’ve got to get rid of it before someone takes it away.”

Danny Dillon, who used to coach soccer at Franklin High School, has played soccer since he was 4. He said the YMCA league has two different groups of players.

“What you have out here are the guys who really hit it hard the last five to 10 years in high school and the older crew like us between ages 27 and 35 that all we did was play,” he said. “Coming up, we would take two Franklin city teams and be first and second place in the Suffolk leagues. We just want to continue to play.”

The league has helped spark an interest in soccer because it has introduced the game in a non-threatening, more interesting way. The eight-on-eight format cuts down on the running, and there is no offsides called.

“That’s why I play defense. I try not to run,” joked Travis Fowler, 29, a former Franklin High School player.

“You have beginners out here who maybe never got to play growing up, and they sign up,” Dillon said. “My dad was the oldest player out here last year and he was 54. There are a lot of father-son combinations, and a lot of brothers.”

Although the games are competitive, the players are still in it for the recreation.

“There’s no bad attitudes out here. Everyone is just trying to have a good time,” Dillon said.

“This is a league that focuses on sportsmanship and a healthy mind, body and spirit,” Strader said.