Sports are often comprised of stress, pressure to achieve results, and long hours of practice that sap energy from even the most fit athlete. But there is a route athletes can take in which they can enjoy sports without these stresses, as the focus is purely for fun and not development or results; that route is recreational sports. Recreational sports (or, more colloquially, “rec” sports) provide opportunities to stay fit and have fun without constant attention to development and game results. Basically, rec sports are variants of high school or club sports, just without the world revolving around the sport. Yes, the quality of play surely is a step down from high school sports, but for a casual athlete looking to have a good time, recreational sports prove to be the perfect fit.
Ridgewood offers a plethora of sports not involved in the club or high school world, such as Biddy Basketball, Ridgewood Baseball and Softball Association (RBSA), and Ridgewood Soccer Association (RSA). I have participated in all three of these rec sports, and my experiences have been awesome. I spent one year playing Biddy Basketball, two years with baseball, and every year since 2nd grade in RSA. As for basketball and baseball, they were just sports I wanted to try for fun, and that was the appeal to me back in elementary school. I had no prior experience in either sport, but I was intrigued and wanted to try them out. Despite being one of the worst players on the field or the court, I still enjoyed each sport. And you still are able to improve; there are still coaches to learn from and techniques to master. It isn’t just a free for all with a ball.
RSA is where I’ve spent the most time with a recreational sport. Playing every season since 2nd grade, I’ve loved the relatively carefree experience across the years as the environment for play is really fun and engaging. In addition to this, I kind of have become a part of the RSA family. Even though I was playing club soccer for five years while I did RSA on the side, I was able to also referee for younger kids as well as attend special RSA-organized events such as Red Bulls Training Programs in the summer. Playing the sport recreationally goes beyond the standard practices and games, and many enjoy a familial connection like mine. Andrew Hartigan, a junior at RHS, commented on the inclusive nature of RSA: “Rec soccer is appealing because there is no pressure to play well and there isn’t a [tryout] process nor a commitment. If you were to try out for the RHS team or a club team, [you’d] be obligated to go to practices and games; this is different with [RSA]. This program fits your schedule and it welcomes players of all skill levels.” Regardless of any restriction that may inhibit an individual from joining a more rigorous program, RSA is open to taking anyone.
The RSA high school program is a big target for both boys and girls who don’t want to or cannot take the sport more seriously. It also can kind of keep you in the soccer world without formal club or high school commitments; many of my former Maroons teammates now only play RSA as they focus on other extracurriculars at RH. In this co-ed, grades 9-12 system, there is a lot of talent on display as a result. With one practice during the week and a game on the weekend, everyone is able to get some touches on the ball often enough without spending the majority of their days on the field. Even though it does get a bit heated at times, (as you face your friends on other teams a couple times throughout the season) everyone is there with the intentions to run around and enjoy themselves. Momoma Harada, a senior at RHS, reflects on the social benefits of RSA: “I got to meet a lot more people. It’s a place where we all have one thing in common and it’s soccer but I meet a lot of cool and nice people the past few years. The games were so much fun! I loved playing soccer with my friends I’m [going to] miss that [so much] when I go to college.”
Recreational sports are effectively not that different from more serious versions of the same sport. You can show up to play, compete, and have fun in a more tame environment. And for any kid, grades K-12, incorporating some less-intensive physical activity in a packed schedule is a great way to uplift your health while having fun and making memories with your peers.
Graphics: Sophia Aujero & Amelia Chen