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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

July 31, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Senior soccer team of grandmas carries lifelong dreams to Italy

By Teresa Wagner and Sue Boettcher

Teresa Wagner and Sue Boetcher play for Seattle’s Best, a 55-and-over women’s soccer team scheduled to play in the World Masters Games in Turin, Italy. The 29-sport Olympics-style event begins Aug. 1 for athletes around the world.

We were The Dreamers before the Dream Team.

We are a women’s soccer team representing the United States in the World Master Games in Turin, Italy. For us, this international sports event is the Olympics for senior athletes, the pinnacle of soccer tournaments for players 30 and older. Our team, composed of women 55 and older, will be one of three representing our country. Our goal ­– our dream – is to bring home first place to Washington state.

We are the generation before the U.S. women’s soccer Dream Team, before Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Amy Wambaugh. We are the girls who didn’t have a soccer program in our high schools. We are the girls who used to play on boys soccer teams because there was no such thing as organized girls soccer.

We did not have athletic scholarships to big universities. We barely had girls sports, except for tennis, track and field, and volleyball.  We are the girls who came out of high school wanting to run, kick and play team sports, all for the sheer fun of it.

Then, in 1974, The Washington State Women’s Soccer Association (WSWSA) was formed in Seattle by a group of local women who saw a need for an organization to help women get together for “fun and exercise.” Riding the wave of a soccer resurgence sweeping the U.S. and spurred by the success of the Seattle Sounders, the WSWSA started with nine charter teams. Mike Ryan, then coach of the University of Washington men’s soccer team, assisted in the formation and served as the initial president of WSWSA. Local players gathered information from various youth groups and melded it together to form what is now the largest women’s soccer organization in the country.

Through sheer perseverance, the WSWSA has been able to grow from the initial nine teams in 1974 to 36 in 1975, 72 teams in 1976 and 100 women’s teams today. Similar growth for women’s soccer also is happening around the nation and in other soccer-playing countries. Through it all, we continued to play – and to dream – big for our generation.

Back in 1976, friends and strangers formed our team and learned the rules and proper techniques. Back then we were relegated to the worst fields, usually without grass and as hard as asphalt. Men’s, boys and even kids soccer programs were given the better fields, leaving us to wonder if we would ever be taken seriously. Our league played year round in rain,fog and snow. We played without refs, and when necessary, we put up our own nets for goals or used traffic cones to designate the goal box. We traveled to Bainbridge Island, Bellingham and Olympia. None of this mattered to us, because it meant we got a chance to play.

Our heroes were Jimmy Gabriel, Roger Davies, John Best and Tony Chursky from the original Seattle Sounders.  And, just like the Sounders, we dreamed of playing in the big tournaments and winning it all.

Now we have known each other for 30 years or more. There have been many changes in our lives, careers and families.

When we first started playing, Peggy used to nurse her son Jared at halftime. Now Jared is a grown man with a wife of his own.

Lisa used to be a firefighter and EMT, but since battling cancer, she has had to quit the job she loved, though she continues to play on our team. She’s our toughest player.

Many of us have gotten married, had kids and are now grandmothers. From this diverse group, we are of one mind. We are a family of friends and players.

We continue to play soccer because we love the game and love what playing on a team teaches us. We believe women who play a team sport take the lessons learned into their work and family life and are better equipped to work out solutions in a group setting.

We recently experienced a devastating loss in our soccer family. Two months ago, Peggy’s husband Pat had a heart attack, and his death left us in shock. We will have Pat’s name embroidered on our team shirts, along with a USA flag. Peggy and Pat were never far from our minds as we trained the past few weeks.

Most of all, we are traveling halfway around the world for our dreams. Our dreams have become a reality because the WSWA and the South King County Soccer Association (SKCSA) donated more than $1,000 to help us get to Italy.

We are grateful and we dream of winning on an international stage. We dream the dreams of the young girls we used to be. We are fierce and focused.

We are The Dreamers.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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