THE WOMEN'S Soccer Association of Columbia, which is about 20 years old and one of only two such leagues for past and present college-level female players in Maryland, has developed an unanticipated problem: graying hair.
Molly McDermott, the association president and a B League player originally from Dallas, said the association's most competitive league is losing players to age and needs replacements or additions.
She said the youngest player in that five-team A League, with teams from Columbia and elsewhere in Central Maryland, is 26. The league's players, some of whom have been together as long as the association has existed, average about 40, with the oldest 57.
"I think people just aren't hearing about us," McDermott said. "We know women are coming back home from playing in college, and that some of them would like to continue playing. But they're not finding us. So we need some help getting the word out -- and we have a lot to offer."
The association, which opened play last weekend, has 25 teams in four leagues, totaling about 450 players who are placed according to skill and experience. The idea is to keep games competitive, not to have college-level whiz kids with a dozen years of experience -- and there are many, many more of them these days -- beat up on relative beginners.
Some of the "soccer moms" who have gotten publicity recently while picking up the game indoors are members of some of the D-level teams, and are learning that the outdoor game is a different experience from indoor soccer.
Oh, no, added McDermott, this aging thing can't be solved just by having those younger, less-skilled teams move up a competitive notch. Basically, she said, this is one instance in which youth, pep and enthusiasm haven't been able to overcome guile, skill and experience.
"I look at the skills of those players and don't think I'll ever be that good," she said.
The association is looking for players at all levels, of course, particularly with a spate of millennium pregnancies having cut into rosters temporarily this year, McDermott said.
If you want to play, contact McDermott through the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County, 410-772-9373, or send an e-mail to McDermott at firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out the association's new Web site via http: www.sac-hc.com, clicking on the "WSAC" link.
Off the trail
Here's the first of a few promised updates from the journal of Chuck Daniels, the 60-year-old Columbia resident and Howard County Striders member who is hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine:
March 1, from the North Carolina-Tennessee line, after a nice evening with a big, warming fire and conversation with another hiker who also has experienced Alaska's famed Denali:
"What do you do when someone snores so loudly in a shelter that you cannot sleep? At 2 a.m., I pick up my bedding, move it on top of a picnic table, and sleep under the stars."
March 2, on Bluff Mountain, N.C., another extreme: "I enter a woods and begin walking down an avenue of rhododendrons towering 20 feet straight up. [The trail] emerges into a hemlock forest with pine needles in the path where I just want to stop and lie down.
"And it's not over. I next enter into a world of moss and fern, much like one would find in a rain forest, and step across the stones of a half-dozen small creeks. The sound of running water in an otherwise totally silent forest is one of the most pleasant sounds to the mind.
"While the trail remains level, the valley drops away beneath me, and the sounds of rushing water fill the woods. Every now and then, I stop just to listen to the tumble of a waterfall I can't see but know is there. All the pains of hiking dissipate, and my spirits soar to new heights."
You can follow Daniels' trek more closely by checking out the Striders' Web site: http: www.striders.net.
Got a lending hand to extend? Howard County Special Olympics is setting up for its third softball invitational May 21 at Kiwanis-Wallas Park in Ellicott City.
More than a dozen teams will start about 8: 30 a.m. in what last year was the largest single-day Special Olympics event outside of the state games. Certified umpires, plus volunteers to help with traffic, announcing, scoring and concessions, are needed. Contact volunteer coordinator Beth Greenberg via the organization's headquarters, 410-740-0500.
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Know an interesting team? Know some outstanding performers by any definition? Have an article idea? Call 410-332-6525 anytime.