Students turn to indoor soccer leagues to keep skills, competitiveness intact (VIDEO)

by AJ Barbosa

When he was young, Francisco Ramos couldn’t stop playing soccer. Though born in Lawrence, he grew up in Paraguay before moving back to the United States in 1998. He first learned the game in Paraguay and began playing club soccer for Avellino F.C., which eventually merged with the renowned Kansas City Football Club, or KCFC. He continued playing for his club and his high school’s varsity team until he graduated.

Now, Ramos is a junior at the University of Kansas. He occasionally plays in pick-up games at the KU’s Student Recreation Center, but he says the mindset is different.

“At the rec, it’s more about the love of the game than anything else,” Ramos said. “Well, unless you’re a scholarship player.”

Though he probably could have, Ramos decided against pursuing a collegiate soccer career. He’s not a “scholarship player.” He’s a full-time student at KU.

He wants to play more soccer, but there isn’t really anywhere to play.

Aside from sporadic pick-up games at the fields on 23rd and Iowa or short-lived intramural seasons, there aren’t too many opportunities for KU students to continue playing competitive soccer.  Ramos is one of many students who crave such opportunities, but are left to settle with infrequent playing schedules and slowly-depleting skills – unless they play in an adult indoor league.

Luckily for Ramos, All-American Indoor Sports in Lenexa is only a half-hour drive from campus. He used to spend each winter playing at All-American in youth club leagues and played with some KU friends in an adult league last year. The environment is different – he’s not playing with any rookies, and adversely, he’s doesn’t have to worry about satisfying a coach.

“The playing atmosphere is just about as intense as you want it to be,” Ramos said. “Some games I’d get pissed off, some games I wouldn’t. Some got intense, but then others were laid back – we were all interested in soccer and just wanted to play it, so that’s what we did.”

Those adult-league games were a breath of fresh air for Ramos, who had grown all too familiar with the occasional monotony of pick-up soccer. He still plays pick-up several times a week – he met his adult-league teammates while playing at the rec – but he’d rather be playing against someone new each time he takes to the field.

“It’s always better to play a team full of players you don’t know than to play a pick-up game because the level of competitiveness makes the game a lot more exciting,” Ramos said. “You end up putting forth a lot more effort.”

Tyler Kalmus, a junior from Overland Park, also decided to continue playing in indoor leagues at All-American when he first left for college. He and Ramos have been friends for years and play pick-up together, but like Ramos, he prefers the turf over the rec’s hard floor.

“It’s a lot harder at the rec because you have a lot less control on a hard court and you slip a lot more,” Kalmus said. “I’ve just played pick-up there. I never been on an intramural team because they don’t use normal balls – they use felt balls that aren’t as good.”

Kalmus started playing soccer in kindergarten and played on a club for years before quitting as a teenager. Though he opted against trying out for his high school team, he kept playing with several friends on a recreational indoor team.  Some of his teammates had played before and some hadn’t – a combination that created the environment he was looking for.

“In club, you have to answer to your coach – especially if you try to show off and get stuck by a defender,” Kalmus said. “In a recreational league, everyone just laughs and it isn’t a big deal – but we still want to win.”

Still, Kalmus says the often laid-back atmosphere of indoor leagues is more competitive than pick-up games on campus, and that’s worth the drive.

“I definitely feel like I was better when I was able to play more consistently,” he said. “At All-American, to some extent, there’s more skill but it’s more concentrated; there’s good individual players in pick-up but the overall talent is a bit worse. I’d rather play competitive soccer once a week than pick-up twice a week.”

***

Lawrence Futbol World reports from Lenexa on adult soccer leagues at All-American Indoor Sports:

(Transcript)

AJ Barbosa: 30 minutes east of Lawrence in Lenexa, All-American Indoor Sports acts as a cold-weather refuge for KC metro area soccer players who crave a more competitive indoor soccer experience. All skill levels, from former varsity stars to first-timers, come to All-American to play in adult leagues each winter.

Aliesha Cassle:It’s eight games — you pay for eight games — so you play seven games and the top two teams play for first and second, the next will play for third and fourth. That’s how it goes.

AB: Fortunately for some, the leagues are divided by different skill levels

AC: We have novice and rec. From there, it’s split.

AB: In the more difficult leagues, frequent players and former players face off in intense games that come with a more serious playing atmosphere. When the offseason hits for local college players, some come to All-American to get some extra touches. They form more teams than you’d think.

AC: In our winter women’s two section, we can have between 5 and 10 in an eight-week period, and for guys, I believe it’s around the same. It just depends every year; it’s different every year.

Reporting from Lenexa, I’m AJ Barbosa, Lawrence Futbol World

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