My first love was soccer. From the age of 10 to 17 I was absolutely obsessed. Practice, play, sleep. Practice, play, sleep. Practice, play, sleep, on an endless 7-year long loop. Soccer held first priority over everything; doing homework or chasing girls simply wasn’t as fun as playing soccer. And while that single-minded approach to life was inherently imbalanced, it helped me out in many ways. For one, it kept me out of trouble. While many of my friends were playing video games, selling or doing drugs, or generally being loiter-happy teenagers, I was outside soaking in vitamin D, improving my athleticism, and learning firsthand the merits of disciplined practice. Secondly, soccer taught me invaluable social skills. Organized practices and games with my club or school teams reinforced the importance of long-term social cohesion and teamwork. Casual weekend pick-up games with older kids or adults at the park reduced social anxiety by way of learning how to make new friends and be comfortable with unfamiliar faces. Finally, and I love telling this story because it’s like some Disney movie shit, I snagged my first girlfriend in high school when I asked my then-crush to come to one of my games – a game in which I proceeded to score a hat-trick within the first 45 minutes! Without a doubt, soccer has been good to me. So as an ode to my old friend, I wanted to communicate to you the four main benefits of soccer in the hope that you, dear reader, may one day go outside and have a kick around.
1.The simplicity of soccer.
In its purest form, soccer is played with five pieces of equipment and two rules. Casual pick-up soccer at the park is one of the simplest, most wholesome activities out there. Four articles of clothing (e.g. a sandal and a t-shirt serving as goal posts on one side, and a backpack and a shoe serving as goal posts on the other side) and a ball are all you need. Everyone agrees that nobody is allowed to touch the ball with their hands, and that out-of-bounds play results in a goal kick, corner kick, or throw-in. After that, it’s ready, set, go ahead and have the most enjoyable Sunday afternoon you’ve had in a while. Soccer is simple, cost-effective fun.
2. The social benefits of soccer.
The joy of participating in physical activities with peers is priceless. This is why for example, the group classes at Crux Fitness are one of the most effective ways to get people in the gym consistently without it feeling like a chore; strong bonds are formed over sweat and physical exertion. Soccer also reinforces the idea of teamwork and dissolving the individual ego for the betterment of the whole group. The sport teaches less “me, me, me”, and more “us, us, us”. Pass the damn metaphorical ball more often in life and see how much happier you become. The final social benefit, and this is more for youth, is the athlete identity that soccer offers. In a developmental period where many kids and teenagers feel lost, identifying as an athlete or soccer player can really help put youth on the right track, stay out of trouble, and boost self-esteem. Play soccer to make friends, kill selfishness, and increase confidence.
3. The mental benefits of soccer.
Soccer is an invaluable incentive for getting people outside. And if you haven’t already noticed, outside is where the fresh air and sunlight is, both of which are amazing for reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, the win/lose aspect of soccer (and really any sport) is a positive way to tap into the innate human need for competition. Instead of maladaptive forms of competition like trying to “keep up with the Jones’” with newer and better wrist watches and sports cars, or the psychological prison of living life to take pictures for more followers and likes than your friends, soccer can be used as a tool to satisfy those competitive urges while (obviously) gaining all the physical benefits of playing an aerobic-based team sport, as well as gaining all the mental benefits of stress, anxiety, and depression mitigation.
As always, if you’d like to know more about, and start taking responsibility for your own health, fitness, and wellness, please reach out to Crux Fitness Richmond for any of your personal training needs.
Patrick Koo – Personal Trainer at Crux Fitness Richmond