PickUp Soccer: The Canadian Way

Young adults are literally shoveling their way to playing free pickup sports in Toronto which is cool AF and I’m so inspired.

I played pickup soccer on a field that was carved out of snow today and loved absolutely everything about it.

I somewhat spontaneously decided to join an outdoor pickup soccer game posted on OpenSports today, two days after Toronto’s heaviest snow fall this season.

Here is the field that I arrived to:

John Deere couldn’t event carve out a better pitch.

For 15 minutes, I was alone on this bleak, barren field at Earlscourt North, fingers and toes frozen, with that excited but uncertain and shy feeling you get when you are joining something new/meeting people for the first time.

Just as I called it quits and was about to leave (cell phone died because of the cold temperature), a van pulled up. Out poured five guys decked out in Adidas track pants, carrying a shovel, two nets, and three soccer balls. They walked toward the pre-shoveled field (in the image, above) like they meant business. It was a truly candid moment!

I walked closer to them and greeted them with the genuine smile that was painted across my face. They took about 10 minutes to shovel more snow to make the field a bit bigger, while some of us passed the ball around as per usual pickup soccer pre-game protocol. The last guy to arrive brought the speakers. Now I was really feeling it. I had a very quiet enthusiasm and excitement about all of this!

One of the things I’ve learned from organizing pickup soccer all summer

…is that people in Toronto have pretty flexible schedules! I started the OpenSports Friday Morning WakeUp PickUp Soccer series under the assumption that there were people out there that would want to play at unconventional hours, on weekday mornings, when there are no indoor or outdoor sports options for adults. This group of eight of us playing on Tuesday afternoon from 12–1:30 totally re-validated this.

This beautiful field at Earlscourt North would not be used for an entire winter without the interminable spirit of this pickup crew. This was us warming up!

The music was a greeeat touch. One guy was DJing from his phone in his pocket while playing — pretty impressive! I think at one point, someone referred to one song as “Gangster Russian” music. Other songs that paired well with the game included the likes of Drake and some fun pop/dance tunes...everything but Bieber. The energy was awesome!

Game was 4 v 4, and the main rule involving the snow was that the ball was still in bounds if it bounced off the 1 foot high snow wall perimeter. The intention was to play to 10 goals before switching up teams, and I think the scores looked something like this:

These were the scores I inputted on OpenSports but I’m probably wrong. Anyways, go Team B!!

Being out of my comfort zone highlights

I’m a medium-to-big proponent of doing things that take you out of your comfort zone, because that’s where growth and introspection and bla bla bla happens. I encourage sports as a vehicle to do this…

  • Near the beginning of the game, one of the guys high-fived me when I scored a lousy goal! This was honestly all it took for me to feel welcome — A teeny bit of human connection :)
  • When one of them got sacked and was clearly experiencing one of those vomit worthy moments. Icy cold soccer ball + shot at you where the sun don’t shine= :/ . I couldn’t help but laugh as his friends made some really funny remarks as we waited for 5 min for him to get better. When you’re the only girl in a group, and a very male thing happens, it is a bit uncomfortable. You know!
  • When we were reaching the end of the match and nobody wanted the game to end. This was the moment when the game became more relaxed and fun for some reason. I’m sure a social psychologist could provide a reason. Maybe it gave us all a sense of “Oh no, this fun game is going to end soon! Let’s make the best of it!” So we played for 15 more min:)
  • As I walked away to leave, I was only 20 meters away when the noise level all of a sudden went up 142 decibels. Conclusion: Group dynamics totally change in the midst of new company! This always happens when you get a new pickup group together. It’s so quiet until there’s a sense of comfort which comes with trust and time.

I am officially sure that I live in the best city, through actions and experiences with the amazing people who make up the fabric of Toronto. If you want to know what to do in Toronto, and you want to play more sports and have experienced like this, Join the OpenSports app at www.opensports.ca :)

And to our regular pickup crew who I disappointed by cancelling pickup last Friday, I am now motivated to play outdoor soccer all winter.

Who’s gonna bring the shovel :)