Sand soccer offers fun alternative to tradition
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By Catherine E. Toth
Special to The Advertiser
By Catherine E. Toth
Are you tired of the same old fitness routine? Are you looking for a way to get into shape and have some fun? The Advertiser will be offering a look at different types of activities to get you up and active or moving in a new direction.
Keenan Seguancia and Cade Ito, both 16, have been playing soccer since they were 5 years old. But only recently did they experience the game on sand.
"It's a lot harder," said Ito, a sophomore at Punahou School. "You can't dribble as much because the ball gets stuck in the sand."
Added Seguancia, a junior at Roosevelt High: "It's frustrating."
Sand soccer isn't a new sport, but it's relatively new to the Islands, where thousands of people — not just kids — play the traditional version of the sport. (Meaning, on land.)
But this version — first played in Brazil more than 30 years ago — is considering one of the fastest growing sports internationally, with hundreds of thousands of players and spectators attending events around the world.
The sport is played on smaller fields — usually 30-by-40 yards — and with less players; usually four on a team plus a goalkeeper. And players aren't allowed to wear shoes or shin guards.
All this makes the sport a fast-paced, high-scoring, skin-bearing event.
"It's a fun day at the beach," said Jeff Kuester, 48, who's organizing the Hawaii Sand Soccer Championships, the first sand soccer tournament in Hawai'i next month. "It's great exercise, you're out in the sun, and it's a lot of fun."
Kuester expects about 45 soccer teams — or roughly 450 players — to participate in the tournament at DeRussy Beach. (The event will also feature beach volleyball.)
Sand soccer is already played around the world, from Brazil to New Jersey. It originated as a pick-up sport, played on beaches just for fun.
Beach Soccer Worldwide held the first U.S. event in Los Angeles in 1992. Now it hosts pro beach soccer events in Europe, North and South America and Asia. In 2005 FIFA recognized it as a sport.
The sport's popularity has grown so much, and so quickly, advocates were trying to get it included in the 2008 Olympic Games.
Though Hawai'i may seem like the ideal place to host a sand soccer tournament, finding a beach on the island big enough was a challenge, Kuester said. But he figures once people see it, the sport will likely catch on.
"There are so many variations of the sport," he said. "This just happens to be one of those different kinds that you can have a lot of fun with ... I think it's a no-brainer for Hawai'i. We just don't have a lot of very long, very wide beaches here, so it's a lot more difficult."
Seguancia and Ito — who both compete with the Honolulu Bulls Soccer Club — aren't thinking about ditching their kangaroo-leather soccer shoes for sand soccer socks anytime soon.
But they wouldn't mind hitting the sand every now and then for cross-training. Or just as an excuse to check out the surf.
"It's more all-out, you're always going after the ball," Ito said. "It's more freestyle."
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Goal kicks: Indirect. Goalkeeper may throw or kick the ball into play and over the halfway line. Punting is allowed. If 5-second time rule is broken (used to keep the ball in play), opposing team gets a direct free-kick from the halfway line.
Passbacks: Goalkeepers are allowed to use hands but not twice in a row in one possession.
Corner kicks: Direct. If 5-second rule is broken, opposing team gets a goal kick. Opponents have to stay five yards away from kicker.
Kick-offs: Indirect. Wall allowed. Opponents have to stay 5 yards away from the kicker. Free kicks and penalty kicks: Direct. No wall allowed. Opponents have to stay 5 yards away from kicker.
Kick-ins and throw-ins: Indirect and taken from the sidelines. A play can choose to kick or throw the ball back into play. If 5-second time rule is broken, opposing team will get a kick-in. Opponents have to stay 5 yards away from kicker.
WHAT IT WORKS
While soccer works your legs, back and glutes, the nature of the game meaning, lots of running back and forth across a very large field boosts aerobic and anaerobic fitness. The game requires continuous movement and short bursts of intense activity. Played on the irregular and unpredictable surface of sand, it helps strengthen muscles in your legs, calves and glutes, making this a great cross-training component to other sports.
WHAT YOU NEED
Soccer ball: Sand soccer uses the same kind of balls traditional soccer uses. Some tournaments require slighter smaller balls such as a size 4 ball, which weighs between 12 and 13 ounces and has a circumference of 25 to 26 inches. Prices range from $10 to $150 and higher, depending on the quality of the ball. You can even purchase a soccer ball made specifically for beach play by UMBRO for $25.
Sand socks: Some companies, such as Vincere Sports, sell socks specific for use in the sand. Cost ranges from $20 to $25. But you can use regular sports socks or go barefoot as well.
Boundary markers: An adjustable nylon court boundary line system can cost around $40. A set of six plastic cones can cost under $10. But you can also use rubber slippers to mark off boundaries, if you need to.
Reach Catherine E. Toth at firstname.lastname@example.org.