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A former professional soccer player’s perspective on playing the sport

Is it time for your child (or you) to head to the soccer field and join in the frenzy around the most popular sport in the world? What is it that makes the sport so appealing, even though some games end in a draw, and occasionally no goals are scored at all. How does such a sport continue to grow in popularity? Like it, hate it or completely indifferent, soccer is in the U.S. to stay.

The expectation is that the game will continue to grow over the next five to 10 years, as the country strives to be recognized (and respected) on an international level. The presence of globally known players such as Schweinsteiger (former German national team captain and player for Manchester United, Bayern Munich) and David Beckham (former England captain and also Manchester United player), and others who have played in the MLS (Major League Soccer) have helped increase soccer’s profile and popularity.

Personally, I have been playing the game for nearly 40 years, and there are many reasons why I have enjoyed the game and continue to play today. If you are thinking about getting your child involved, or even start playing yourself as you watch your child run around the field, here are a few reasons why it would be a great idea.

Exercise: Playing the game requires constant movement. The size of the field in combination with the speed that the ball travels and changes direction requires the players to continually be active. It really is a great way to exercise and stay in shape.

Teamwork: The success of the team is dependent upon working together and functioning as a unit. You have to learn to be dependent on other people (and help them to be successful), as well as being expected to perform your own duties/roles. This will even prepare you for life in the ‘real world’!

Free/recreational play: To play organized soccer primarily just requires soccer cleats, soccer ball and shin guards, all of which generally can be purchased at a reasonable price. The game can be played on a field, in a street or on your driveway. In my house that sometimes means the family room! You do not even need a soccer ball, any ball will do. Playing for a club or in a recreational program often will incur costs, but to just play with friends on a field somewhere is very inexpensive.

Lifetime: To me, this is one of the most important aspects. 20 years on from playing in college, I will still go out and play during the week with other friends who also enjoy its benefits.

If you are on the fence, I would recommend getting out there and giving it a try… may just be the next Messi……

Andy Hylton is a physician assistant with OrthoCarolina and a former professional soccer player. 

His suggestions are guidelines and treatment steps for some of the most common soccer injuries.

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