As the outdoor excitement of the fall sports season fades and the lull of dead week precedes the most competive try-outs of the year, an alternative arises to challenge the winter blues. A sport that promises all the camaraderie and exercise of a school-sanctioned activity, but boasts the inclusivity and schedule-stable security of a club team, indoor recreational soccer has become the latest and greatest way to fight back lethargy.
Played between plaster sheets and buried-through-the-wall goal boxes, the all-season sport has rapidly gained popularity among several East students.
Looking for another weekend outlet, sophomore Jack Kovarik and several friends decided to form “Pwnage,” a 12-man squad. It was the perfect way to stay in shape between the soccer and track seasons.
“We weren’t really playing any winter sports so we decided to start our own indoor soccer team to stay in shape and have fun,” Kovarik said. “We’re not taking it too serious. We shot around, a couple shooting drills. But we mostly just messed aorund, so it was fun.”
Indoor soccer isn’t an average kick around. With a smaller field than outdoor regulation and walls that keep anything from going out-of-bounds, it’s typically faster-paced than an outdoor game. Indoor teams are also half the size of their 11-man counterparts, making substitutions are also more free form – players point, yell and hurdle the boards surronding their benches when they swap a teamate out of play.
After Kovarik made his bid for soccer stardom, word spread fast and soon the bottom of Kovarik’s roster was covered in scribbled names. A spin-off team was created as the large group of friends discussed life on the field over tie-dye shirts and pizza.
Sophomores Emily Kerr and Kiki Sykes led the spin-off team, the uniformed all-black “Chillahs,” against Kovarik’s tie-dyed team in their first match on Nov. 6. Despite the Chillah’s loss, the teams were able to rejoin at a Sheridan’s for a post-game toast.
“This year I decided to just take off and do it for fun. Last year I was on C-Team for soccer and I just didn’t want to do that again,” Kerr said. “And I want to run track in the spring, so I’m just doing soccer for fun. I really just don’t want to play it at the competitive level. This is more the recreational level.”
Diane Hannerman of All-American Indoor Sports, the premiere local recreational soccer fieldhouse that offers league play for anyone between tiny-tots and soccer moms, said that the complex hosts approximately 230 adult teams between 47 leagues. Games start anywhere from 6 a.m. to midnight each day.
“[Most people play indoor soccer] for exercise, and for the tranquil state of mind to get you out of the work place,” Hannerman said. “Inside, you don’t have to worry about weather. You don’t have to slow down for corner kicks or throw-ins. It’s an hour of solid exercise.”
After the Cross Country team saw record crowds on its roster, the appetite for open-ended athletics is even more noticable with recreational teams dotting the team roster at AAIS. Although Hammerman says their peak season for teens is between October and March, the leagues still see die-hards playing year-round.
And it doesn’t end there. Dead week sundries can be booed away by climate-controlled sports like cold hockey at Pepsi Ice Midwest or warmer play on the wooden planks of Skate City.
Sports City of Blue Springs, Miss. boasts a full indoor football field and blacklit “galactic golf ” for rental. And for those less interested in group sports, Ibex rock climbing, also of Blue Springs, includes sky-high plastic hand-holds that challenge the strong and exhaust the weak.
“I don’t play under the sun, but when the lights are on, the game is on,” sophomore Stephen Sundberg said, a seven-year veteran of Pepsi’s Metro Ice Hockey League. “We get more fans [than outdoor sports]. We fill up at least three-fourths of the bleachers.”
But there’s a catch — the price tag. Kovarik’s team paid roughly $75 each for eight games at AAIS, and Ibex costs $26 for equipment rental and a day’s climb. Most gym or field rentals charge around $100 per hour. But the end result is worth it.
“It was intense,” Kovarik said of the match-up between Chillahs and Pwnage last Friday. “Both teams had been talking trash [in the week leading up to it]. And before the game we tried cheers. It was really loud in the stadium.”