The folks at Arena City Soccer aren’t at all sexist. But in the spirit of keeping things fair, and attracting enough females to fill their co-ed teams, women’s goals are worth two points.
“If you have a girl who can create her own shot, who has any kind of skill at all, the guys are just salivating trying to get her for their team,” says J. Bailey Wilkinson, a three-year veteran of the league. “They’re an incredible commodity.”
Wilkinson’s wife signed him up for a team when he turned 40. He’d never been a soccer player, and he was hovering around 225 pounds.
“I lost 25 pounds the first five months I was out there, and that’s including going out for beers after the game,” recalls the James Island small business owner. “I run about five-and-a-half miles in a 40-minute game. As long as I play soccer, I don’t have to worry about what I eat.”
Arena soccer’s field is smaller than a conventional game, and there are no out-of-bounds unless the ball touches the ceiling. It’s a fast game with lots of sprinting and little chance to rest.
Stephanie Latter, a doctor with Total Life Care, signed up seven years ago. A soccer player since she was five, Latter also plays with a women’s field team, but she enjoys the thrill of the co-ed arena league, particularly when she scores a goal on the guys. Latter’s arena team won last season’s championship.
Arena is run by Patty Nagel, who took over from the previous owners in 2003 after coaching in Mt. Pleasant. “My goal was to make it easier to get on a team at the arena if you didn’t have one already or were new to the area,” says Nagel. “The co-ed is very social and offers different levels of competition.”
If Bailey Wilkinson’s story is typical, she’s succeeded. He estimates that 80 percent of the people he and his wife call friends are connected to the league. “It’s an incredible cross-culture of people,” says Wilkinson, whose team includes an Australian and several Latin Americans. He’s so hooked that he not only captains his team, but spearheads pick-up games every Friday night as well.
“When I started, I said, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,'” he recalls. “I’m not going to lie — it sucked at first. For two or three months, you get pains you can’t even imagine. But then it gets really addictive, and really fun.”