Walking Soccer: Keeping Competitive Sport Alive

flaming-soccerball
Photo: Pixabay.com

One of the frustrating aspects of growing up is being unable to compete in sport the same way you could when you were younger. As you hit fifty years old the warning from the doctor is to ease off (if they haven’t already told you), yet the drive for competition and sport is still there. In this article we look at how a popular sport has been adapted for older generations and why it is just as competitive.

Soccer is not a particularly popular sport in Canada but in the United States, and especially in Europe, it is played very regularly. Like most sports, it is a young person’s game with many athletes retiring around the age of thirty to thirty-five if their lucky. However as the United States Adult Soccer Association puts it “a player’s passion for soccer only increases with age”. In the States, US Adult Soccer puts on a four-day event aimed at getting players back into the game. The event has many different types of levels depending on age from over 30 matches, to over 70 matches. One popular game that is part of the programme is walking soccer, a version of the sport without any running.

Photo: Pixabay.com
Photo: Pixabay.com

This unique take on the sport was developed in the Untied Kingdom in Chesterfield in 2011. It is very similar to the rules of soccer with a few key differences: no running, any infringement is an automatic free kick, and no slide tackling. The number of players is usually the same as five a side soccer match and in some games there are also no goalkeepers. Compared to regular soccer where, top journalist Stephen Tudor who writes features on the sport as well as contributing to regular articles to Betfair’s Champions League section of their site states that players nowadays, need to be like “marathon runners, sprinters, and heptathletes rolled into one.” Walking soccer is a much gentler version of the game but no less competitive.

The Guardian interviewed Paul Murtagh who was injured at 21 and he states that walking quickly is still physically challenging and that many people are surprised at how competitive it is.

The sport has been hugely beneficial for those looking to compete in sport despite having physical ailments. The Telegraph reports that the sport became popular in the UK after a Barclays Bank advert. The advert focuses on a Sunday league soccer player Steve Rich who had to give up playing soccer at the age of 26 after a car crash. He was able to start playing again due the low impact nature of the sport. It is a great way for a player with injures or more senior players with older joints to stay fit. When asked about the benefits for over fifties playing the sport, The Society of Sports Therapists said: we have seen an improvement in the cardiovascular fitness, joint mobility, co-ordination and proprioception”.

There is no word as to whether the sport will catch on in Canada but what is does show is that sports can be adapted for any generation to play and enjoy. Senior Health Memos state that the ideal sports for seniors are golf, bowling, and tennis, and while all these sports are valid, maybe one day we could see popular sports like ice hockey adapted and added to that list.

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