Ann Steen (left) will be playing organized soccer for the first time at age 77. She credits Ridge Meadows Soccer’s Shauna Williams (right) for the push. (Ronan O’Doherty - THE NEWS)

Ann Steen (left) will be playing organized soccer for the first time at age 77. She credits Ridge Meadows Soccer’s Shauna Williams (right) for the push. (Ronan O’Doherty - THE NEWS)

Ridge Meadows Soccer Club offers walking soccer program

The slower-paced version of the beautiful game is aimed at seniors and those with limited mobility

Ridge Meadows Soccer Club is aiming its sights at local seniors in efforts to get everyone to play the beautiful game.

Starting November 3, they are launching a walking soccer program at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre’s gym.

Club president, Mike Savignano, says the program is aimed at individuals who would like to participate in the sport of soccer, but who may have issues with mobility, and would prefer a slower pace.

“This version of the sport is gaining interest globally, and affords some of the more mature members of our community an opportunity to stay active and continue enjoying the sport they love,” he said.

“For others it might be an opportunity to learn a new sport. Any way that you look at it – it’s a lot of fun.”

READ MORE: Ridge Meadows Soccer welcomes former Whitecaps coach to club

One of the programs first sign-ups was Ann Steen.

The 77-year-old has been involved in soccer since she started coaching her son’s team in 1973, and has played a notable role in the Alouette District Youth Soccer Association for 37 years, including terms as president, and many years as its registrar.

What may come as a surprise is – other than the odd scrimmage during practice –Steen has not played the sport.

After suffering a heart attack three weeks ago, she had a chat with the club’s operations manager, Shauna Williams, and was convinced to give walking soccer a try.

“It’ll be fun,” Steen said. “It’ll be good to get out and get exercise. I played slow-pitch up until last year, but now my knees can’t handle the running.”

Williams said it warms her heart they the club is finally getting Steen to come play the sport after she has been involved with it so long.

“We’re looking at this as part of her heart health rehab once she gets up–and–going,” she said.

The game is played with six players on the field at a time. There is no running permitted, and players have to keep one foot on the ground at all times.

Cheeky forwards, who wished they could have done a little more more cherry picking in their youth, will be happy to know there are no offsides.

Keeping everyone in line, and making sure the game is played at a relaxing pace, will be head referee Roy Branco.

“He’s got an extensive background in soccer, and handles all of the development of our referee, so his knowledge of the game is superb,” Williams said.

“Plus he’s got a really good personality, and good disposition, so I think he’ll keep it fun.”

While having fun is near the top of the list of priorities, keeping safe is still paramount.

The sessions – which will be held Tuesday afternoons from 12;15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m – will be limited to 24 participants, so there will be ample space for players to social distance when entering and exiting the gym.

Williams said masks can be worn as well.

“The players are walking and we don’t expect them to be doing too much heavy breathing since it isn’t a high cardio activity,” she said.

There will be COVID screening questions asked before they arrive, and hand sanitizer will be provided before and after games.

The first session will last for seven weeks, and is expected to end just before the holiday season.

Interested football fans can still sign up for the program on the Ridge Meadows Soccer Club’s website.

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