When the outdoor fields and parks get sloppy from the weather, many players — like Kerry Dunbar of Kirkland — head indoors to get their soccer kicks.
Those who have never played indoor soccer might not realize exactly how fast-paced this team sport that mixes fitness with fun is. But those who play it certainly understand, and the thrill of the game is exactly why they do.
Indoor soccer is played on a smaller field, with six people per team, and because the ball can be played off the wall, the game’s pace rarely slows.
The fitness portion, of course, comes from the near-constant sprinting up and down the field while simultaneously utilizing your best foot skills. On average, players can run 3 or 4 miles per game.
The fun is amplified by the post-game socializing that takes place over refreshments and adult beverages. Over time, teammates become buddies, and the physical pain of the competition — much as it does with most activities — seems less intense when working out with your friends.
“There is definitely a fun, social aspect to indoor soccer,” said Kerry Dunbar, 45, a Kirkland resident and math teacher at Skyline High School. Dunbar started out in the sport of soccer 40 years ago at Woodinville Soccer Center, and now plays indoors at Arena Sports in Redmond.
“Socializing is a big draw for our adult leagues,” said Arena Sports marketing manager Kelly Knapp. “Friends and colleagues come together, meet new people, and then stay afterward to enjoy beer or other beverages.”
Arena Sports hosts indoor soccer year-round, but the colder, rainier winter months are most popular.
“Everyone comes indoors, where it’s warmer and lighter,” said Knapp.
Indoor soccer’s popularity appears to be growing, with a record 5.1 million people playing nationwide in 2016, according to the data-centric website Statista.
“We offer leagues from beginning to advanced — women’s and men’s only, and co-ed,” said Knapp, who has been a member of the same women’s team for about seven years. “Everyone can find something at their level.”
As a veteran of the sport, Dunbar has played on both women-only and co-ed teams and encourages each new player to consider his or her skill level before joining a team. “Get into a group who’s at the same level as you; that way you can all get better together,” she said.
Though advanced, she still knows her limits.
“There’s pickup soccer on Fridays, and it looks scary-competitive and scrappy,” she said.
Dunbar has often found herself playing against her former math students. To counterbalance, her women’s team — which has been together about 15 years — has added younger players, such as a 24-year-old goalie, to help keep up with more youthful competition.
Still, age doesn’t matter, as long as a player still is fit. What one loses in speed can often be made up for in skill, which is a soccer player’s chief tool. That — and a better understanding of the game — evens the field for older players, according to Dunbar.
Arena Sports has Eastside locations in Redmond and Issaquah, and recently opened a 98,000-square-foot facility in Mill Creek. It features an indoor soccer arena, as well as a full family entertainment center. The Woodinville Indoor Soccer Center also offers indoor leagues.
Dunbar still gets a rush from the sport’s competitive nature, and even the game itself keeps her going.
“I still play because I love soccer,” she said. “It’s a team sport. If I weren’t playing with my friends, I probably would have listened to my body and quit years ago.”