Gin Wehr (left) and Andrei Tenetchenko compete in a walk soccer game July 18 at Kasch Park in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Gin Wehr (left) and Andrei Tenetchenko compete in a walk soccer game July 18 at Kasch Park in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Walk soccer offers a more casual way to play

The ‘fun alternative to the full version of the game’ has come to Snohomish County.

At Everett’s Kasch Park Athletic Complex, nestled between soccer fields Nos. 1 and 3 and contained by a high-rising, chain-linked fence, 16 hardened soccer players donning vibrant pink and baby blue mesh practice pinnies methodically navigated Field No. 2’s forest green field turf.

On this windy July 18 night, seemingly each player aged from early 30s to mid-60s had a reason they were giving a new offering by the Snohomish County Adult Soccer Association a try.

No one beats Father Time, and in soccer eventually there comes a point when even the most well-trained athletes can no longer handle the sprinting, quick lateral movements and physical contact the game requires.

That’s where walk soccer comes in.

“Earlier in the year during one of our state meetings, we were told the state got a grant and they are trying to promote walk soccer,” SCASA secretary Naomi Johnson said. “There are a lot of people out here. We see them all the time — (they) are hurt, they can’t play anymore, they got a knee injury. Walking is not as pounding, so I think this is going to bring a lot of people out.”

Johnson was eager to try the first of two walk soccer demos the SCASA is hosting. Johnson, 62, hadn’t played since she suffered a serious knee injury playing the regular game three years ago. Her injury never was diagnosed, although she said she couldn’t walk for three weeks. But July 18, there Johnson was, enjoying a modified version of the game she loves.

“It was a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “It is fun, but it’s exercise. I would say low-impact exercise, and there is a big mix of skills. It worked.”

Washington has been at the forefront in a movement to expand walk soccer in the United States, Washington Adult Soccer Association operations manager Josh Vega said. The game is vibrant in England, complete with competitive leagues and tournaments that determine national champions.

Vega has been touring the state on what he describes as a “road show,” exposing communities to this new game. So far, walk soccer has generated strong momentum in Whatcom County and pockets of the greater Seattle area. He’s hoping Snohomish County is the next spot where the game flourishes.

“In a partnership with the U.S. Soccer Federation, we are working on growing this game as an alternative to the full version of the game,” Vega said. “There isn’t a specific age, but this is for people who may have mobility issues or just want a fun alternative to the full version of the game.”

While normal soccer and walk soccer are largely similar, there are some key difference besides the obvious rule of walking only.

Some of the most notable differences include no offsides, keeping the ball below head height and no throw-ins. Walk soccer is played on a field roughly one-fourth the size of a normal field, and on July 18 was played using 10-foot wide pop-up Bownet soccer goals. The game also features a heavier ball, called a futsal ball, to limit bounce and pace.

The game featured four 15-minute quarters, and besides a few shouted reminders to walk instead of run, players quickly picked up the game’s rules.

“We are building off what the FA in Europe is doing,” Vega said. “We want to build a core set of rules of play and then allow for flexibility. The casual feeling of the game is very appealing. We are finding people are getting sometimes close to 10,000 steps in a game if they are playing the full amount of time. It might not look like much, but it is a great form of exercise.”

The SCASA is hosting a second demo game at 7:15 p.m. July 25 at Kasch Park and is encouraging people to come out and give it a try.

A SCASA year membership costs $35, but those unwilling to commit to a year pass can purchase a short-term pass for $20. The SCASA’s ultimate goal is offer walk soccer full-time, get a league going or at least create routine pick-up play.

“If you quit playing and you remember how much fun you had when you were, it is a great opportunity to get back into the game,” Johnson said.

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