The collective chaos that is club soccer

Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.

As classes come to a close for the day, some students choose to schlep to the library to tackle their piles of work and others just want to dart back to their dorms for that well-needed post-class nap. Another group of students, however, decide to play soccer. By 5:30 p.m., club soccer players are donning their cleats, with small groups kicking the ball around in a circle on Joss Beach. Pugg goals, small portable goals about six feet wide and three-and-a-half feet high, are set up to make two fields. Then, they gather in a big circle, count off into four teams and begin to play.

Club soccer is a co-ed organization where anyone—regardless of skill or experience—can come to play impromptu, casual games recreationally. Whether you want to play with cleats, sneakers, shin guards or no equipment at all, the goal of club soccer is to just have a good time. People trickle in late and join a game;, others leave early and the teams are slightly adjusted to balance the numbers. The rules are self-regulated, as there are no referees or scorekeeping. Towards the end of practice, the golden goal rule is utilized, where the first one to score “wins,” and oftentimes multiple golden goals will be invoked in order to prolong the playing. Nevertheless, the game maintains a high level of competitiveness and aggressiveness while upholding its easygoing, informal nature. 

Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.
Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.

“It’s a bunch of busy adults playing pickup soccer, that’s how it’s played all around the world,” remarked Julian Gross ’26, a member of the club’s executive board, during one of their practices. “We like to keep it casual in practices, that’s what we settled on, and to play something close to pickup and work on technical skills and togetherness as a team. We can be that sort of outlet for stressed-out people. A couple times a week, I can play what I’ve been playing for my whole life. It’s a lot of fun.”

Even on the bumpy, lumpy terrain of Joss Beach, through almost any weather and, sometimes, with pennies that desperately need laundering, around 40 people come consistently to every practice. Of those 40 people, only 10 percent are female. Several of the female captains that were present last year are now abroad. Additionally, there are not enough female players to split the team gender-wise. While this all may seem like a deterrent for the female players, it has actually made them want to show up even more.

Isabella Cusick ’26, another member of the executive board, commented during practice: “It can be a little disheartening and intimidating, seeing the number of girls that there were, but those girls were my closest connections. It’s super casual, we ourselves are here to just play and have fun and foster those relationships.” She continued, “It’s important to have female leadership, and we aren’t here to dictate anything. It’s our stress- reliever, but it is always nice to have some figures to look up to, and I looked up to the three female captains we had last year. That was honestly the reason why I kept coming, because I knew they would be here.”

Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.

Three first-years, Erika Shiffman, Harriet Simons and Amalia Mesa, all shared similar sentiments regarding the gender disparity. As some male players warmed up before practice, the girls sat on the side watching them—not because it was an official drill they were being excluded from, but rather because it felt harder for them to informally jump into an all- male circle. 

“I still feel comfortable,” Shiffman asserted. “There is always a factor that the guys are less likely to pass to you. You have to be a certain level of good to be considered good for a girl, but for a guy it’s kind of automatic.” 

This pressure the female players have to be “good” is especially extenuated on a primarily male team. However, this feeling of not being “good” enough is not due to their lack of skill, but rather the fundamental difference of being female. 

Simons noted, “It’s fine, I’m still coming because I still want to play soccer, but there is the added pressure of playing because we don’t have the same physical, not capability, but starting point.”

Nevertheless, the female players continually emphasized that they still enjoy playing with their community: , the whole point of club soccer, after all. Club soccer is less of an obligation and more of a relief—being outnumbered by male players does not tarnish this attitude.

Mesa expressed, “We can’t ignore the male dominance, but it’s still fun. I don’t mind it. It’s a good environment and a fun level of competitiveness.”

Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.

Gross has been aware of the gender disparity and is continuing to work on making the environment more accessible and welcoming, while maintaining its informality. He commented: “We’ll keep working to make it a more equitable practice—we are a co-ed team, after all.” He plans to discuss how to make the team specifically more inclusive of the female players during the first captains’ meeting.

After Gross gathered everyone into a group circle to count off for teams, Shiffman, Simons and Mesa joined in and played seamlessly with the male players, unbothered and unworried. Soon, you could hear various yelling of names, callings for the ball and cheers when a good play happened. Halfway through practice, the teams were switched up, and they continued to play again as if they had never paused. 

Igor Martiniouk/The Miscellany News.

At the end of practice, as everyone began to disperse at different times depending on when their game reached golden goal, the Pugg goals were placed into the trunks of several different cars or dorm basements and Gross announced that the team would be holding a group dinner upstairs in Gordon Commons. Other events they hold include watch parties for different competitions–, ones in Europe, especially. In the future, they hope to have a proper field space on the turf or practice fields, and buy more formal equipment, such as larger goals. Coming up during Families Weekend, the team is planning to travel to Skidmore to play their club soccer team.

Club soccer is only a couple of years old as an official VSA organization, but whatever your class year, gender identity or level of experience, don your cleats (or not), pick up a penny that hopefully has been cleaned, and just have fun. As Victor Zhang ’25 reflected, “It’s the collective chaos that is club soccer.”

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