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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LHS’ title hopes die in state quarterfinals, athletic complex proposed in NW Lawrence, SKC vs. Houston in Eastern semifinals

by AJ Barbosa

 

Here are your Wednesday headlines from Lawrence and the KC metro area:

 

  • Any momentum Lawrence High’s soccer team had from their late-winner against Manhattan in the last round of the 6A Kansas state playoffs wasn’t enough to prolong their title run as Shawnee Mission East topped the Lions 1-0, drawing the curtain on the Lions’ championship hopes and season. A first half goal from East’s Bryce McClanahan went unanswered for the remaining 80 minutes as the Lancers held on to win it. Lawrence high senior captain Justin Riley told the Lawrence Journal-World, “It set a foundation for what Lawrence High should be doing and showed the Kansas City schools how soccer should be done here at Lawrence High.”
  • Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal-World reports that city officials will hold a public hearing on “Rock Chalk Park,” a new athletic complex proposed for northwest Lawrence, next Thursday (Nov. 8) at Lawrence Free State High School. Renderings from Paul Werner Architects — provided to the Journal-World and pictured below — appear to include facilities for soccer, track and field and baseball, as well as several parking lots. Lawhorn outlines some of the potential hurdles the project faces in an article today for the Journal-World.

 

Photo courtesy of the Lawrence Journal-World

 

  • Sporting KC will have another shot at the Houston Dynamo in the playoffs — this time, in a two-leg aggregate Eastern Conference quarterfinal tie. Houston eliminated Sporting in the Eastern Conference finals at Livestrong Sporting Park with a devastating 3-0 victory last November. The first leg of the tie will be played in Houston on Sunday, with the second leg scheduled for Nov. 7 at LSP. Aggregate goal scoring rules will be observed — all goals scored in both legs will contribute to a two-game combined score, with away goals carrying more weight than goals scored at home (for example, if both teams draw the first leg 2-2 and the second leg 1-1, the aggregate score will be 3-3 and Sporting will advance on away goals, having scored more away goals than Houston).

 

A “Listening Post” — the Universal Language of the Game

by AJ Barbosa

 

In my Multimedia Reporting class last Friday, a representative from KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs gave a presentation on diversity and race. Almost every class I’ve taken has had something of this nature — a representative from some department comes and peddles their product, hands out pamphlets and leaves.

This was different.

Instead of the usual charade, we were treated to one of the most scintillating and naturally interesting lectures possible. This school continuously puffs its chest and boasts about its diversity, but let’s be honest: We’re still in the middle of Kansas. We’re still in the middle of a corn-fed state that’s predominantly white and, at times, is a little late when it comes to cultural progression (which is ironic when you consider the “free state” days).

The man who gave this lecture encouraged us to further develop ourselves as reporters by taking an evening to step out of our comfort zone — to spend an hour or two with people who we usually don’t, to do things that we usually don’t. My lab professor encouraged one of my classmates who’s covering politics to try going into a traditionally-black barber shop to ask them about politics. My classmate thought it was a good idea, and I think he actually did it.

Soccer, by nature, is an extremely diverse sport. It’s even dubbed “the world’s game” by many. Though the English Premier League and other European leagues have struggled with racism and have started campaigns against it, the game is still played by people of every creed, language, culture and color.

My job wasn’t as hard as I imagine others’ were. I’d seen tons of people playing pick-up soccer at the rec (though it’s worth noting that I haven’t been to work out in almost a year). Nine times out of 10, you could hear them calling out to each other in Spanish. I’d played around with a group of them once when I was a freshman, but I never really continued. Though soccer used to be my comfort zone when I played a lot, the actual physical playing of the game is a bit rusty for me now. Plus, I don’t speak Spanish well at all. If you’re counting, that makes two areas where I’m not as well-versed as I’d like to be, which could also be considered as “outside my comfort zone.”

So I went and played with them.

I wasn’t too nervous about it because I knew that they’d likely be friendly — pick-up soccer enthusiasts generally aren’t snobs. The only things that concerned me were my dusty soccer skills and my inability to communicate in languages other than English. Neither were an issue; after a few missed shots and intercepted passes, my feet gradually started to come back. Luckily all of the players knew a good amount of English, but they still predominantly spoke to each other on the court in Spanish. Luckily — once learned — soccer is a sport that can be played seamlessly by players of any languages. The natural flow and progression of the game is something that could be played effectively in complete silence. I was able to find them and play them through on runs, and they were able to do the same with me.

This experiment/assignment reiterated the fact that soccer is a truly universal game with a truly universal, uncanny language. No amount of cultural barriers can disturb or alter the “beautiful game” when it’s being played by players who truly appreciate and understand it.

One guy was wearing a Manchester City shirt, though, and that was hard to understand and accept. I gave him a little bit of ribbing, but he just laughed and reminded me how City clinched the title 30 seconds after my beloved Manchester United thought they had it.

I told him to wait until next year. He laughed. I laughed. We kept playing.

That’s the beautiful game.

Area Soccer Stores Prepare for Winter Indoor Season (Video)

By AJ Barbosa

Soccer Master, the closest soccer-specific retailer to Lawrence, has started stocking their shelves with Futsal and turf shoes as players head indoors for the winter.

(Transcript)

AJ Barbosa: As the weather drives area soccer players indoors, soccer stores like Soccer Master in Overland Park have shifted their merchandise to cater to athletes in need of new equipment for the indoor season.

Stephen Hoffman: The market is really geared towards Futsal and we’ve sold so many Futsal shoes in the last two to three weeks because that sport is becoming more and more popular and a lot of the clubs aren’t playing indoor anymore — they’re transferring to Futsal — so Futsal shoes have been coming in and we’re getting them out the door quick.
AB: Stephen Hoffman has worked at Soccer Master for several months and says that, even though it’s indoor season, some clubs still play through the winter and outdoor cleats are still somewhat in demand.

SH: Right now it’s hit or miss depending on the week but we still get quite a few people coming in for outdoor shoes.
AB: Still, Hoffman says shoes for hard-floor based Futsal and traditional indoor soccer will continue to drive the store’s sales through the winter.

SH: We probably quadrupled our shelves with Futsal and indoor. Indoor shoes will probably be on the wall through February — the end of February.

***

Editor’s Note: For those who may be unfamiliar with Futsal, it’s essentially soccer played on a hard surface with a smaller ball, smaller goals and smaller dimensions. Indoor soccer is generally played on turf with hockey-esque walls surrounding the playing area. Futsal doesn’t have walls — balls can be played out of bounds just like in outdoor soccer.
Here’s a look at one of my favorite Nike advertisements that shows what the playing style of Futsal tends to look like (though this court is outside). Manchester United legend Eric Cantona brings modern-day star Thierry Henry to a street Futsal court to play with some locals. Beautiful soccer ensues.

For ‘Headers’ Gone Wrong: Free Concussion Screenings at Lawrence Clinic

By AJ Barbosa

His team was deep into a tense, tied match when Dylan Aul instinctively did what any present-minded soccer player does with a ball approaching and a defender on their hip – he leaped up, lunged the upper-third of his body to his left and fought for the header.

Well, that’s what he’s been told.

Aul, a KU freshman and Lawrence Free-State alumnus, didn’t make contact with the ball. Instead, the corners of both players’ foreheads collided, leaving them in a crumpled heap on the pitch below.  Aul was out cold – he doesn’t remember whether or not his defender was, too – and was taken to the hospital upon regaining consciousness.

After running tests, doctors diagnosed Aul with a concussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical professionals treat approximately 135,000 children with sports-related brain injuries each year, including concussions.

Though losing consciousness isn’t rare by any means, it doesn’t always happen when someone sustains a concussion. They may stay awake and continue to play, though disoriented with a throbbing headache. As the hours roll on and their parents’ concern grows, they’re taken to get checked out. If the injury happened on a Thursday or Friday night, Dr. Sean Cupp usually sees them Saturday morning.

Cupp has worked for nine years as a sports medicine physician at OrthoKansas, an orthopedics practice three blocks south of Lawrence Memorial Hospital. 17 years ago, OrthoKansas began opening its doors on Saturday mornings to screen young athletes with injuries in a free clinic.

“Originally, it was geared towards high school football players because they play on Fridays and might have sustained an injury that wasn’t bad enough for the emergency room,” Cupp said. “If they wouldn’t know whether or not they were hurt badly, they’d be able to come in and get checked out.”

As years went by, OrthoKansas’ physicians began to see athletes from a wider variety of sports come in with a wider variety of injuries. Still, Cupp says that concussions are one of the most common injuries he sees.

Though sometimes don’t appear to be as debilitating as a broken bone or torn muscle, Cupp says repeated concussions have severe negative repercussions. That’s why he takes them so seriously.

“No one goes back the same day after they’ve been diagnosed with a concussion,” Cupp said. “They need full mental and physical rest until their symptoms resolve, and most of the time, that can take up to 10-14 days for younger athletes.”

The first few days after being diagnosed are often the most painful for athletes. Aul doesn’t remember many details from when he actually sustained his concussion, but without batting an eye, he recalls struggling through class his first two days back.

“I kept getting really bad headaches and migraines,” he said. “I had a lot trouble focusing in school and things, but it eventually started to get better.”

Aul’s coaches at Free State heeded the severity of his injury and kept him off the field for two weeks. Once cleared to play, he noticed an uncanny change in his on-field mentality – especially when preparing for headers during corner kicks.

“Whenever we’d get a corner, I’d get kind of worried about it,” he said. “I was still aggressive, but it’s hard not to be nervous after you just went through that whole concussion situation.”

No matter how much Aul erred on the side of caution after returning, he’d still be at risk of sustaining another concussion every time he’d step on a field. Cupp says that’s the nature of sports – the only way to eliminate the risk is to not play. It’s a tough reality, but Cupp doesn’t believe he’s keeping athletes from playing the sports they love.

“As a sports medicine physician, my job isn’t to disqualify a kid,” Cupp said. “It’s to qualify a kid to play safely without any long-term problems.”

Though there are times when Cupp isn’t able to qualify athletes to continue their sports careers, he insists that it’s for the best and there’s a bigger picture.

“As we continue to progress from advancements with concussions, I hope we create an environment for the individual where they can continue to be productive in life,” he said. “Whether that means they go back to playing that season or if they unfortunately never play again.”

Dr. Sean Cupp of OrthoKansas also offered his opinion on new concussion regulations in the NFL and NCAA. For more, listen below.


(Transcript)

AJ Barbosa: After talking about head injuries in soccer, Dr. Sean Cupp of OrthoKansas gave his thoughts on concussion regulations in the NFL and NCAA.

Dr. Sean Cupp: The NFL has fortunately stepped up and acknowledged what we’re doing in the international sports community with concussions. Unfortunately for them, it’s been a litigious reason — they’re being sued by the Players Association. And also, an unfortunate matter was the previous head medical director for the NFL was more concerned about his own prestige than actually taking care of the players and he has been replaced. There’s trickle down from the NFL to the college and high school level, and right now, the NCAA has not stepped up like the NFL has; the NCAA has basically given the power to the individual conferences to decide their concussion protocols. But the high schools, at least here in Kansas, we follow similar rules that are being practiced by the NFL and the international sports community.

 

Klinsmann digs LSP, Lions And Firebirds Wrap Up Regular Season

Here are your Monday headlines from Lawrence and the KC Metro area:

 

  • United States manager Jurgen Klinsmann funneled his thoughts on Livestrong Sporting Park into one word: Fantastic. Klinsmann and the U.S. national team have been in town for several days ahead of their crucial August 16 World Cup Qualifier against Guatemala. Several news outlets have speculated that, if the weekend goes logistically well, the U.S. Soccer Federation could move future qualifiers from Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
  • A mid-range free kick from Lawrence High senior Justin Riley lifted the Lions over the Lawrence Free State Firebirds in this year’s cross-city rivalry game. The game proved testy as tensions boiled over for both teams, but almost as a symbol of the year’s successes, the Lions notched another win ahead of the state playoffs.

Dream Weekend: Jayhawks, Firebirds, Sporting Grab Wins

Here are your Monday headlines from Lawrence and the KC Metro area:

 

  • Free State topped Leavenworth High 4-2 on Thursday — just two days after losing 1-0 to Olathe Northwest. The Firebirds’ consistency and stamina will be put to the test as they face Shawnee Heights, Olathe South and Olathe North in the next four days.
  • A late breakaway and goal from University of Kansas junior Caroline Kastor in double-overtime saved the Jayhawks from dropping a game to TCU in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday. The Jayhawks held a 2-0 lead until TCU rallied back with a two quick goals in the last ten minutes of regulation. Kastor’s goal notched a valuable 3-2 scoreline on a crucial road match.
  • Sporting Kansas City clinched its spot in the postseason in one of the closest MLS playoff races in recent years. Sporting’s 2-0 flattening of long-time rival Chicago Fire was enough to guarantee the team a playoff berth, though home-field advantage remains up for grabs as the regular season draws to a close.