Cindy Cleveland dribbles the ball across the artificial turf, veering away from the goalkeeper who tries to block her attack. A 49-year-old grandmother whose 5-year-old grandson also plays soccer, Cleveland finds herself too far in the corner to score, so she passes the ball to a teammate who’s in front of the goal and kicks it in.
While Cleveland exchanges a high-five with her teammate, her daughter cheers her on — her matching shirt and midfield position indicating her own in-the-game status.
It’s just another goal and another night for a different sort of soccer mom — women in cleats, jerseys and shin guards who aren’t afraid of the dirt or dust-ups they encounter while competing in indoor soccer leagues at Keller’s Blue Sky Sports Center.
“I get my sweat on, but it’s way better than getting on the treadmill or the elliptical,” says Melanie Candey of north Fort Worth. Noting that she enjoys both the strenuous exercise and the competition, Candey says she started playing eight years ago with a group of sideline soccer moms.
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“We didn’t know what we were doing,” she recalls. “Somebody would say, ‘What’s our strategy?’ and I’d say, ‘I don’t know. Kick the ball?’ ”
More than 100 adult teams play in each of Blue Sky’s five seasons, and winter is the busiest time for women’s open indoor soccer league play.
Tall and athletic, Jessica Bays of Keller has played for 27 years. She plays 3v3 soccer on a small field as well as the larger 6v6 games and says she plays for fun, stress relief and exercise.
“It’s a good release for me,” Bays says. “I get my cardio in. I love the game.”
According to Jorden Reed, marketing director at Blue Sky, more than 100 adult teams play in each of the facility’s five seasons, and winter is the busiest time for women’s open indoor soccer league play. On weekends, there are games going from 7 a.m. until after midnight; weeknights, adults play from 6:15 to 11:30 p.m.
For the early winter season, 10 teams are women-only and 33 are coed — meaning their six-player teams have to have at least three women on the field at all times.
Some women play on just one team but many play on three or four per season. And many did not grow up in the sport. Like Candey, they came to it after watching their kids play.
Just Kick It
Cleveland teaches American Sign Language at Central High School. Most evenings after school, she hits the field. Playing on a couple of teams with her 25-year-old daughter, Felicia Navarrette (who describes it as “a bonding experience”), Cleveland has also played on coed teams with her 22-year-old son.
I get my sweat on, but it’s way better than getting on the treadmill or the elliptical.
Melanie Candey, soccer player
It all started 17 years ago, she says — several years after her kids began playing the sport. As an avid runner, Cleveland says she found an outlet in soccer. During the winter, she plays four nights a week, splitting her time between two women’s and two coed teams. Unlike a lot of players who prefer to play forward or defense positions, Cleveland says she likes playing midfield because of all the running involved.
“I’m not a good outdoor runner in the winter, so this helps me stay in shape,” she says.
Candey also plays year-round at Blue Sky. Last year, her husband, John Candey, was deployed for seven months in Afghanistan with the Air Force Reserves, and indoor soccer gave her something to do beside sitting home and worrying.
Sometimes she plays with one of her daughters — ages 22, 20 and 17— but notes that they can also take care of themselves while she goes to games solo.
“I don’t have a lot of skill, but I’m really competitive,” she says. “Being competitive makes up for it.”
For Cleveland, soccer helps prevent boredom in her workouts. She still runs unless bad weather keeps her indoors, and she occasionally lifts weights. She’s had a number of severe ankle injuries and a broken foot, so she’s careful to stretch before games and she wears an ankle brace in addition to her shin guards.
All Soccer, All the Time
For 35-year-old Rayella Nickles, playing soccer led to a coaching soccer. A resident of far north Fort Worth, she played a little as a child but says she was focused on competitive gymnastics.
Rayella Nickles plays on seven teams — two on Monday, two on Friday and three on Saturday — and also coaches three teams for girls.
As an adult, she joined a group of moms who wanted to start playing soccer for fun. Six years later, she plays on seven teams — two on Monday, two on Friday and three on Saturday — and it doesn’t stop there. Nickles also coaches three teams for girls, one of which includes her 7-year-old daughter, and serves as academy director for Texas Eagles FC, a competitive club. In that role, she coordinates teams for those in the training program for ages 4 to 10 (too young to play at the club level). Nickles has started adult teams with some of the parents of girls she coaches. Many of them have never played, so she helps them learn as they go.
“It’s soccer all the time,” she says. “It’s fun and it’s competitive. I love coaching and learning new stuff.”
Jessica Bays’ love affair with soccer dates back to high school. After she’d played on the boys junior varsity team at her small high school in Maine, her coach agreed to start a girls team. Bays recalls being a lanky, awkward 6-foot teenager when she first started playing, and her foot-eye coordination proved much better than her hand-eye coordination. These days, her height gives her an advantage when playing goalkeeper — although on the larger indoor field and in outdoor competition, she prefers to play forward.
Not surprisingly, her enthusiasm for the sport has rubbed off on her children and, in the Bays household, soccer is a family affair. While she plays on a coed team with her husband, her eldest daughter, a freshman at Dallas Baptist University, sometimes joins her on the large indoor field. Another daughter, 15, plays club soccer, and her 9-year-old son is set to play outdoor recreational soccer in the spring.
Bays concludes: “I love to play. I love watching games, too.”
Where To Play
For more information about local adult indoor soccer leagues, visit Blue Sky Sports Center’s website at www.blueskysportscenter.com/keller or check out Southlake’s Stampede Sports Arena schedule at http://stampedesports.com.
A Healthy Pursuit
Women can benefit in myriad ways from playing soccer. In a 2010 study in Denmark (reported in March 2015, on www.healthfitnessrevolution.com), two sets of women ages 20 to 47 were divided into groups that played soccer and began running programs. Results found that the soccer players had better results in bone density, muscle strength and fat burning. They also had improved coordination, cognitive function and balance while also reporting gains in confidence, stress reduction and social connections.