Playing soccer in the snow!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

A few months ago, a friend notified David Bateman that the next season of a local adult soccer league was almost ready to begin. He hadn’t know about it before, but the Windsor High School student jumped at the chance; after all, the league would offer him a way to sharpen his skills at forward before hitting the fields as a member of his school’s varsity team.

Then he stopped to think: wait a minute, what kind of soccer club starts a season in the freezing month of early January?

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Why, the Portsmouth Soccer Club. That’s who gave Bateman and several other locals the chance to try out their &uot;foot-ball&uot; skills in the coldest months of the year as members of the Suffolk Stampede. Currently the proud owners of a 1-2 record, the team plays games nearly every Sunday at Hodeges Manor Elementary School in Portsmouth. They battle teams from Chesapeake and Portsmouth.

&uot;The cold really doesn’t effect me, because it keeps me from getting overheated,&uot; Bateman says during a practice at Diamond Spring Park. &uot;I figured this league would be more of a challenge for people my age. It has been; the people here are bigger, stronger, and more experienced than the ones I’m used to playing.

&uot;But there’s a lot more team effort. In the younger leagues, everyone’s always trying to score. Here, people worry more about teamwork.&uot;

He’s got some familiar company on the Stampede; Windsor goalkeeper Gibbie Dowdy keeps flying balls out of the Stampede net.

&uot;I like playing goalie because I don’t have to run much,&uot; says Dowdy, who combats the low temperatures with a microfiber undershirt he calls &uot;under-armor.&uot;

&uot;The people out here aren’t always thinking about winning; they care more about having fun. That’s the most important thing out here.&uot;

Dowdy’s point was proven last weekend. When another team failed to field enough players for a match, several members of the Stampede joined them to take on their scheduled opponent. The game didn’t count, but the players still played and the officials refereed the game.

&uot;We’ve got six or eight coaches and referees from the Suffolk Youth Athletic Association playing out here,&uot; says coach Philip Poe, who at 46 is one of the league’s oldest competitors. &uot;The adult league only plays in extreme weather; in July, the hottest time of the year, or in January, the coldest! This is the time where we can get away from coaching and refereeing.&uot;