These Women Aren't Sitting On The Sidelines
Wilton moms have organized and are crossing the line—the line from soccer spectators to players—and they’re taking their kids’ shin guards with them. The result of this athletic movement is the Wilton Women’s Soccer (WWS) group. By design, the rules to participate are not terribly stringent. Previous experience, level of play, and age are irrelevant. In fact, the only eligibility requirements beyond living in, working in or having some association with Wilton are the right attitude, the ability to stay awake until 10 p.m. and a little endurance.
The group’s season runs from April to November. Practices are held on Mondays from 8 to 10 p.m. under the lights at Kristine Lilly Soccer Field. It is late enough to allow the husbands of women with younger children to get home for the nighttime routine, and for those with older ones or who work outside the home, to sneak away for a couple hours.
"The attitude of the group as a whole is ‘come whenever you can,’ which takes the pressure off,” says 37-year-old Kristen Caruso, who played soccer at Wilton High School on the same team as Kristine Lilly. The games are organized in a pick-up format to allow players flexibility in their commitment, explains one group coordinator, Lorah Perlee, who played at Cornell. “We divide the players into two balanced teams and scrimmage.”
Perlee, a molecular biologist in her 40s with a 12 and 14 year old, first heard about the group from her son’s soccer coach, Ben Sadler. “That was two years ago, and we could barely rally enough women to get a four versus four going,” she says. “Now we actually have substitutes some nights.”
Tara Streit, who works at Cider Mill School, started playing last year. Even though she isn’t a mom, she says, “Lorah was just excited to have more women interested. I love the workout and the socialization involved in playing a team sport.”
Each of the women has her reasons for playing. For many, it is a break from the monotony of their regular workout routine. “Soccer is tough to play when you are out of shape,” says Perlee, who also runs, not for the love of it, but to avoid “feeling like death after an all-out match.” Running five miles a day, Caruso notes, doesn’t compare to the workout she gets from playing soccer, “not to mention the endorphin rush at the end!”
Jerusha Vogel, 40, moved to Wilton five years ago. A stay-at-home mom in a new town, she was looking to meet people in the community and get some exercise when a friend told her about a soccer group that played at night. Since her husband was able to get home from work to put their two young boys to bed, Vogel could get out for some adult time and a workout. Now she plays because she loves it. “It is the highlight of my week,” she says.
Karen Silverberg, a mom in her 40s, played intramural soccer at the University of Connecticut, works part-time at the Westport YMCA, and has two children, 12 and 15. She points to another great reason to play. “It relieves my body and mind of stress. I feel great after I have been out running around and laughing.”
Caruso is happy to be part of a team again, enjoying a sport that, until now, was a vivid, much missed part of her past. She moved back to Wilton three years ago with her husband and two children. She noticed a WWS flyer at Scoops one day. “It sounded very informal and not intimidating, which was important to me,” she says. “I hadn’t touched a ball in 20 years. This group spurred me on.”
As with any sport, there are going to be injuries, but they are seldom serious, says Vogel, typically sprained ankles, pulled muscles and assorted bumps and bruises. “Sometimes our competitiveness gets the best of us, but it’s always in good fun,” says Caruso. Adds Perlee, “Walking into work with a black eye is something I generally try to avoid.” Perlee reports a “walloping 22 women came out to play” in the first session this past April. And she encourages other Wilton women interested in joining the group to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.