Did you play soccer as a kid? You can start again at any age, and it's a great way to stay fit.

Soccer: How to Rediscover Your Favorite Sport

I’ve played soccer since I was four years old, when my father put me on a co-ed team. Having grown up overseas where “football” is very popular, my parents were enthusiastic fans. I developed a love for the game and played all the way through high school. I planned to play in college but was injured during my last season in high school.

The injury sidelined me for longer than I had expected and kept me from playing. Instead, I played tennis in college for a couple of years until realizing I just didn’t have the passion for it. A couple of years later, I joined the intramural teams and played the last couple of years in college and again in medical school. After that, I thought it was time to hang up my cleats.

One day I happened to be walking along the booths during Pride Parade and came across a stall for the Golden Gate Women’s Soccer League. The coach and a few players were recruiting players for a team in their competitive league. I actually knew a couple Kaiser staff members who were playing, but I was thinking I’m too old to do this now and I haven’t played in years. I was a little hesitant, thinking I’m not as fit as I was, but it all came back like riding a bike.

Our team plays in the fall and spring, practicing once during the week and playing games on Saturdays. Here are a few reasons soccer is a great adult sport.

Soccer Is Good Fitness

Soccer is a great workout because you’re switching between running, walking, sprinting and jumping and it’s great cardiovascular conditioning. You just need a ball an open field or park and, of course, a few people with whom to kick around.

Soccer Builds Skills

Many people don’t realize that soccer teaches strategy. Because my father had us watching professional matches from such an early age, we learned tactics and skills that were helpful during our own games.

Soccer Teaches Leadership

You learn how to be a leader when you play soccer. I was captain of our high school soccer team for three years and the work hard/play hard philosophy made me a better person all-around. That attitude translates to all aspects of life: sportsmanship, perseverance and learning how to deal with the hardship of loss as well as winning with grace.

Soccer Is Social

I’ve had a blast getting back into the sport, made some really incredible friends, and found another way to keep myself in shape. I strongly encourage anyone who played soccer as a kid to think about joining an adult league or come to the pick-up games that are held throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Even if you have never played before and you’ve always wanted to try it, there are plenty of opportunities to play with people with similar skill levels. It’s never too late to try something new!

Asha Mehta, MD, currently works at the minor injury center at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, helping patients manage both acute and chronic musculoskeletal issues. With board certifications in internal medicine and sports medicine, she integrates these areas of expertise to promote a healthy, active lifestyle and help patients be at their very best. Since childhood, Dr. Mehta has played soccer and tennis. She stays fit with yoga, pilates and weight training, runs the occasional 5/10K or 1/2 marathon and plays soccer for the Golden Gate league in San Francisco.