The world’s most popular sport has exploded in popularity in the United States throughout the past few decades. There was a time when soccer was rarely seen on television. Now, it’s shown all the time. Locally, Jacksonville Armada FC, a professional team in the North American Soccer League (NASL), and many recreational clubs serve kids and adults all over the First Coast.
According to 2014 U.S. Youth Soccer statistics the number of registered players has gone from more than 100,000 in 1974 to more than 3 million, with 52 percent boys and 48 percent girls playing respectively. Florida has the sixth highest number of players nationwide with more than 113,000.
Why is soccer catching on? Surely it’s more than David Beckham and neon-colored cleats.
Parents are looking for a sport that not only encourages commitment, teamwork and good sportsmanship, but also promotes a high level of physical fitness. The cross-cultural sport also requires little equipment.
Amy Haney is a working mother of three and coach of a kids’ recreational team at the Westside Soccer Club. Haney started playing at an early age herself and went on to play intermural soccer at the University of Florida. When Westside Soccer Club was looking for coaches, she figured with her experience it was a natural fit to coach her 6-year old daughter’s team.
For her, it is a privilege to coach. “The parents are entrusting their children to me. I want them to fall in love with the game, learn the fundamentals and to grow as players,” she says.
Soccer is a sport that requires skill, intelligence and fitness. As a cardiovascular exercise, it is one of the most vigorous. It’s rated sixth behind hockey, rowing, racquetball, cycling and running. A 90-minute game of soccer is considered equivalent to a four-mile run.
Haney believes that soccer is the perfect kids’ sport. “It is so active; they are always running around with a ball at their feet. It is a wonderful way for them to exercise.”
Working in groups is a fundamental part of the sport. “It is also a great team game. Individually each child plays a part, but they learn that teamwork is required to be successful collectively,” she says.
The Haney family, that also includes 9-year-old Joel and 5-year-old Micah, often play and run together. Husband, Stephen, has grown to enjoy the game his wife and children love. The entire family can be found on the fields of Ringhaver Park during practice and game days, which can be tiring with two working parents; but a family that plays together, stays together.
According to Diet & Fitness Today, competitive soccer burns 431 calories in 30 minutes. While casual play burns 302 calories and coaching soccer burns 172 calories. No matter how you play the sport, soccer is going to be a great workout.