Women nurture their love of soccer

Local residents cite fun and fitness as benefits

Erin Bradstreet, of Camas, moves the ball down the field, as her sister Rachel (center), of Washougal, looks on. The Bradstreets and their teammates on Passin Thru beat the team Little Indian 4-2, on April 13, at Wy’East Community Park, in Vancouver. The Lower Columbia Womens Soccer Association includes teams for women ages 30 and older.

Three local women older than 30 are enjoying the rewards and challenges of playing soccer.

Rachel and Erin Bradstreet, along with Lea Phillips, are among the members of “Passin Thru,” a team in the Lower Columbia Womens Soccer Association.

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Rachel Bradstreet, 42, of Washougal, started playing soccer at the age of 5. She played on a Camas team that had one other girl.

The rest of her teammates were boys.

“Before I went to my very first practice, I cried my eyes out because I believed the boys would not let me play with them,” Bradstreet said. “I was proven wrong quickly and was in love with soccer by the end of my first practice.”

During her second year, she played on an all girls team, The Grasshoppers. Bradstreet stayed on that team until she played on the first girls soccer team at Camas High School.

“There were no tryouts back then,” she said. “Everyone made the team.

“We were a good team and managed to make it to state playoffs,” Bradstreet added.

She graduated from CHS in 1989. As a student at Washington State University, in Pullman, Bradstreet played soccer in the recreational leagues.

She continues to enjoy playing soccer today.

The benefits include having fun and traveling to tournaments in sunny places such as Las Vegas, Sacramento and Southern California.

“Soccer also allows you to do just about anything else physically active that you want to,” Bradstreet said. “It keeps you strong, quick and agile.”

She enjoys incorporating efficiency, strategy and fitness into her game plan to be smart about how she plays.

“It’s not all about superior skills,” Bradstreet said. “The social aspect is undeniably great, and I am grateful to play with other physically fit and skilled women.”

In August, Bradstreet will play soccer for the Oregon Brew in the World Master’s Games, in Torino, Italy. The Olympics-style competition involves more than 50,000 athletes ages 30 and older.

Through the years, Bradstreet has been inspired by former members of the U.S. Women’s soccer team such as Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett and Michelle Akers.

“I think I have always been more inspired by the team in itself rather than an individual,” she said. “I find it amazing they were able to win a World Cup when women’s soccer in the U.S. was so new.”

Bradstreet has words of wisdom for other women 30 and older who might consider playing organized soccer.

“Know yourself, and understand your bodies’ capabilities,” she said. “Start slow, and cross train with strength conditioning classes. Then find experienced players to learn from and play with.

“You will become a good player quickest by surrounding yourself with good players,” Bradstreet added. “Have fun with it.”

Sibling also plays soccer

Bradstreet’s sister Erin, 35, of Camas, enjoys the teamwork and the camaraderie that soccer provides.

“The benefits include feeling connected with others, making friends, doing something I love, playing with my sister and having a feeling of accomplishment,” she said.

Erin admits playing soccer can wear her out.

“I feel the effects of the game much more now than I did before,” she said. “It takes at least a day to recover.”

She played soccer as a youth as well as at CHS, where she graduated from in 1996. Erin took a seven year break from soccer as an adult, due to a car accident.

She encourages women 30 and older to consider playing organized soccer.

“You can’t beat soccer for fitness because it requires agility and running, but all you think about is how much fun you are having playing the game,” Erin said. “Soccer requires teamwork, and making new friends comes with the territory.”

Enjoying soccer in her 50s

Lea Phillips, 52, of Camas, believes soccer is an amazing game to play at any age.

“My love for playing hasn’t changed just because I got older,” she said. “As much as I would like to slow this aging clock down, I can’t. So I will continue to play for as long as I am physically able.”

She has been playing soccer as an adult for about 15 years.

“I was aware of the game and always knew that I would love to play if I had been given the chance,” Phillips said.

She fell in love with soccer when she played on a recreation/beginners indoor team.

Then Phillips asked experienced players to coach her, and she played on any indoor and outdoor teams that would have her.

“A lot of people took me under their wings,” she said. “I feel that this is because we all love the game so much, that we will help anyone who really wants to learn.”

Phillips said the benefits of playing soccer at her age include having opportunities to compete.

She has fun playing the game with friends, and she loves having the drive to win.

“It isn’t bad exercise either,” Phillips said. “Every day that has a soccer game in it just makes the day go better. It always gives me something to look forward to.”

Challenges of playing at her age include competing with opponents who are younger than she is.

“There are obviously times when it occurs to me that I don’t run as fast as I used to, or my reflexes aren’t as quick as they used to be,” Phillips said. “You just tell yourself to do the best that you can for your team.”

In addition to Passin Thru, she currently plays for two indoor teams (womens and co-ed), and two outdoor teams.

Phillips encourages other women to play soccer.

“There are many different levels and divisions you can play in — from beginning teams to collegiate level teams,” she said. “Everyone can find a team that they feel comfortable with.”

For more information about the Lower Columbia Womens Soccer Association, email lcwsa@yahoo.com or visit www.lcwsa.info.

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