Fitness, fun and competition unite Arundel league players despite a three-decade span among them

AT PLAY

Love of soccer defies age

October 04, 2006|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

Steve Medford has played in the unlimited adult soccer league run by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation and Parks for 22 years, and he figures he's got almost as many years left in him.

"My son Tate is 2, and I want to last 16 more years to play with him," Medford said with a laugh.

Medford is a restaurant supplies salesman and a manager for his team, named BTFOOM. (The acronym, which refers to being clueless, can't be spelled out in a family newspaper.)

It's similar to many others in the league of about 200 people: a group of good friends who love soccer and want to keep playing. They meet Sundays at the Bachman and Lake Shore sports complexes in North County.

"I play to stay in shape and for the love of the game," said Medford, a Gambrills resident. "You get the camaraderie."

Medford just turned 40 about two months ago, and there are players 30 years apart in age on the field. On Sunday, Joe Kimball celebrated his 50th birthday by playing another game.

"I've got guys on my team who weren't born yet when I started playing in this league," Medford said. He joined in 1984, shortly after graduating from Arundel High, at the urging of a neighbor who played in it with a bunch of older guys. He said the league back then was made up of guys who coached kids' teams.

But over the years, it evolved. Many of the players are more serious about their health and athletic skills.

"It's not just kicks and giggles," said John Spinnenweber, the facilities superintendent at the Bachman Sports Complex, who runs the league.

Many of the players compete in several leagues. Medford is in three.

Geoff Knickerbocker, 43, a software company sales manager, plays in an over-30 league during the week and competes in an indoor program.

He helps run the Severna Park United team, which has a core group of players who have been together for at least 10 years. Before then, at least half of the team played together at Severna Park High School. Knickerbocker heard about the league after his playing career at Loyola College ended.

A number of players on Severna Park United played in college at places such as Navy, American, James Madison, Salisbury and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

"You just go out and have fun and stay in shape, and you lose yourself in the competitive game," Knickerbocker said. "Golf is OK, but if I can exercise and get the endorphins running, it's like a runner's high."

The Peace Frogs have also been around awhile. They've played in this league since the mid-1990s and compete in a spring league.

"I always joke to the guys that it beats slogging on a treadmill for 45 to 60 minutes," said Michael Meals, a 1991 Broadneck graduate who manages the team with Mickey Emory. "From an athletic standpoint, you're doing a lot of different things on the field."

Scott Weaver, a manager for Hudson's Heroes, said the small age difference on this team might help his team click. The players are 23 to 33, and he wants everyone to get along.

"[That's] the one thing I really like to focus on," said Weaver, a Pasadena engineer who played at Chesapeake. "It's a Sunday morning, and nobody likes to get up at 7 on a Sunday morning to go out and play games with a bunch of guys you don't like. You want everybody to get along or it's not fun."

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