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Soccersixes, Golf and Footgolf

Sam Bennett looks at sporting stereotypes and accessibility to sport in Oxfordshire and beyond


More cocktails than cocksure…

To play football matches you have to have had a ball at your feet since you could crawl, right? You have to have played 20-a-side in the street until dark or the owner of the ball had to go in don’t you?  You have to play all the time for a good side and had trials lined up here, there and everywhere surely?

And of course you have to be a typical “football lad” – girls, beer, week in Zante etc.

It’s not the case.


 

I didn’t do any of these things – the slope I lived on as a kid would have made 20-a-side a bit difficult for a start. I played a bit when I was young but my interest fizzled out as I began to realise I seriously lacked the ability other players had.

And while I get on with ladies, I mainly mean my mother. I have had the doctor give me leaflets regarding my alcohol consumption, but that’s more cocktails than cocksure…

And I’ve never set foot in Zante.

But when 2015 came, like countless others I decided to get fitter. Less wine. More weights. Fewer chips. More cardio.

Simply, my confidence grew, so when my friend texted asking if I wanted to join a six-a-side football league, despite not touching a football for a decade, I said “Yes, absolutely”.

And so Crystal Phallus was formed (though I can’t take credit for the name); we play in the Soccersixes Wallingford Monday league, our shirts are never washed but at least they all match.

It hasn’t always been easy, 4 games in and I’ve already had to issue a Facebook apology for taking myself off the pitch due to a knock in my knee (and a second apology for bringing myself back on), but it has brought a load of old mates together to play matches, hopefully win some of them, and have fun – irrespective of sporting ability or background.

I spoke to our league manager, Tom Rearden, about how accessible the FA affiliated Soccersixes has made football and the stereotypes associated with those who play the game…

One of the appeals of Soccersixes is that you can join a league regardless of your sporting ability and background – is that very important to the organisation?

It is, without a doubt. Any standard of player can take part as long as they’re 16 or over – the age thing is to do with our insurance not covering younger people.

There are so many different types of teams. Younger lads (16 and 17 year old school mates), work colleagues, your Saturday and Sunday league footballers who want something midweek for training and then just general friends.

 It gives everybody an opportunity, if they want to get together, whether they’re any good at football or not. I get work teams getting beaten 10-0 every week and they’re happy as you like!

You get those who take it seriously; we offer trophies for winners and runners-up of leagues, the competitiveness is there for a lot – especially Saturday and Sunday league footballers that are using it as a training type of thing on top of their football.

Also with a Saturday or Sunday league team you need 11-15 players. With the 6-a-side it’s easier.

The fact it’s a flexi league must help as well?

Yes. The manager takes responsibility when they sign a team up. But the team he takes down with him could consist of anyone – even he wouldn’t have to play. Throughout the course of the season he could field anybody.

We are FA affiliated and we do use FA affiliated referees but in regards to players it’s not as strict as the Saturday/Sunday football leagues. 

Is there a stereotypical “football lad” do you think?

I don’t know about football in general but definitely not in our leagues. There’s so much variety. It can cause problems sometimes; a group of 16 year olds could have turned up first game to face a bunch of 28 year old rugby players and they get bossed around the pitch which could put them off. Sometimes the mismatch can be a problem but we communicate with our teams, make sure everything is OK, and if there are any problems we could move them to a different division.

It’s just communicating with the teams and making sure they’re happy.

Finally, how can people get involved in Soccersixes?

We’ve got 360-400 leagues now nationwide. We’ve got leagues everywhere. What I would say to anybody looking to get involved is visit the website. See the leagues available, as soon as you see a league that you fancy, enter a team and the entry will come straight through to the relevant manager of that league – they’ll be in touch with you within 24 hours. Or you can call us on 0845 300 8886. 

 

“A Good Walk Spoiled”?

Tiger Woods may have shot 48 for 9 holes aged 3 but don’t worry if you didn’t…you can still play.

You might have – as my grandad did – played a lot of physical sport during your life. He played football and then gave this up for squash but eventually reached an age when this was too demanding. Naturally he wanted to carry on with sport in one capacity or another…and golf suited. He plays regularly now, having grown up in Ireland at a time when he and his mate could only have dreamt of an afternoon at the golf club, and disagrees with the notion attributed to Mark Twain that “Golf is a good walk spoiled”!

It’s the perfect sport to take up in retirement. You have the time, you get plenty of cardio in the form of walking and you can maintain muscle mass without having to kill yourself doing weights.

There’s no need to pay a fortune and no shortage of people to play it with – although it’s also one of those things that people play alone quite happily.

While there may have been a time when golf was for the chosen few, today it is open to all pockets of society. You’ll find clubs in Oxfordshire that welcome players of all ages, backgrounds and abilities – you’ll even find reduced rates for senior citizens!

We have everything in regards to golf; 18 hole courses, 9 hole ones, places where you don’t have to be a member to play, driving ranges – at Hinksey Heights, for example, you can get 50 balls worth of playing time for a mere £4. 

Also, perhaps rather than pay for membership at a particular club, you and a group of others could partake in a golfing break every once in a while. You’re never too old for a stag weekend and a golfing one could be spectacular. Take a look at the breaks offered by The Oxfordshire Golf Club or Heythrop Park! Also see Frilford Heath and the large group bookings they do!

So use your time, get yourself some second-hand clubs…and spoil walking!

 

Footgolf

Richings Park Golf Club, Buckinghamshire, among other clubs, has made sport more accessible through the introduction of an 18 hole Footgolf course. Footgolf is simply golf played with footballs! General Manager Carl Lindsay talked about the reaction, the difficulties and the future…

What has the reaction to Footgolf at Richings Park been like?

The feedback is very positive. Because the beauty of it is that both males and females can play it, families can play it and kids can play it…it’s not an elite sport.

It’s just taken off. It’s a phenomenon. It might pass over after 5 years or so but at the moment it’s going from strength to strength.

Have there been any problems?

Not at all. We had enough land to build the 18 holes – it’s just work for us.

I don’t know whether golfers and Footgolfers will mix, at the moment it’s a little stand-off-ish. But that’s like anything that’s new…it’s “Jesus, what’s that over there!?”

The youth will get used to the environment of the golf club and hopefully we’ll pick them up and get them into golf at a later date when their legs go on the Footgolf!     

What are the future plans for Footgolf?

UK Footgolf, the governing body of the sport, just like the FA, are doing lots and lots of different things. They’ve got inter-county matches , the first one was the other day, and what’ll happen is the start of a league. There’s also competitions; there’s one coming up that is league ranking: you get ranking points and you go up and you can get picked for county or country. They’re trying everything.

- Sam Bennett

 

Middle Image - Richings Park Golf Club

 

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