by Lynn There's been news lately of a professional soccer team coming to Landsdowne Park next year - the team will be part of the North American Soccer League. No doubt the new team will go the full professional sports route - nosebleed tickets running you north of $50, merchandise all over, plenty of press coverage.
But did you know that there's already an excellent soccer team in town - and not just a men's team, but a women's team, too? Both teams are called the Ottawa Fury and they play in a North American-wide league with other university-aged young athletes. It's just one step down from the pros, and many players use their time on the Fury to train for the big leagues. 14 of the Fury women played on Canada's World Cup team, so you know they have the chops; meanwhile, the men's team has made it to the finals the past two years and are looking for their first title win this year.
We first heard about the Fury when they came to our kids' school to do some one-day soccer training camps. A few of the players came out to teach the kids some skills and go over the rules of the games. The players were so patient with the kids, and it was a great day for everyone. Our School Council covered the (pretty minimal) cost of this event so it was free for the students. If you have kids in any grades from 1 through 8, it's absolutely worth it to give the Fury a call and see if you can set something up for your children's school for the fall or next spring.
Both our eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter could not stop talking about the visit, and since the players also handed out free game tickets to each kid, going to watch a summer game was a slam-dunk. And I have to say, we were not disappointed at all.
We went to see a women's game last Saturday, which started at 4 p.m. The day was gorgeous - 25 degrees and sunny, but with a gentle breeze that cut the heat and left no humidity in the air. It was a perfect day to sit outside and watch some high quality soccer.
We arrived about 20 minutes before game time and parked in the free lot. The games are played at the Algonquin College field, which is near the corner of Baseline and Woodruffe. It's a zoo of construction in there right now but if you go in on Navaho Drive and turn left into the College Car Park, you'll be right there. There are stands on both sides of the field but you'll want the ones on the parking lot side, to your left as you enter, as those seats keep the sun at your back.
(Needless to say, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses are a must.)
We easily got seats in the front row of the stands, which left plenty of extra leg and walking room for excited and/or bored kids who need to move around. There's a safety bar there for convenient standing and leaning. And tobacco chewing. (Just kidding. Unless you have very precocious children.)
The women's Fury are tops in their league and the girls showed it with their mad skills and sharp moves. Our son was impressed and our daughter was really, really inspired to see women rocking it on the soccer field. They both have been doing soccer themselves in a city league for the past few years and so they recognized great playing when they saw it. With their win on Saturday, the women's Fury brought their season record to 9-0, and clinched the division championship. They're off to the playoffs!
A soccer game takes about two hours from start to finish, which proved to be about 15 minutes too long for our four-year-old. She liked the soccer okay but was more interested in colouring (I'd brought some pencil crayons and paper), running around on the astroturf during halftime, and bugging us to buy her some candy. But she did pretty well and it was such a nice day to be outside, we all enjoyed it.
As for facilities, there's just porta-potties on site, so it's not a great place to be changing a diaper or trying to feed a baby or toddler. There's a BBQ that gets fired up at half time with burgers, hot dogs, pop, chips, freezies, and candy, and it smelled good and tasted better, but your food options are limited if you have fussy eaters or allergies to work around. Luckily there's no restrictions on bringing in your own food and drink.
So here's what I loved: it was inexpensive ($10 for adults, $4 for kids, and did I mention the free parking?). It was a great way to introduce our kids to a professional-level sports event, since it was relatively short and low-key, we didn't have to sit miles away, and it was a sport that they actually play and care about. It was a rare chance to see female athletes competing in Ottawa. We could decide at a moment's notice to go - if the weather is good, and everyone is healthy, you can just drop by, tickets are available at the door and you really needn't worry about a sell-out. We could bring our own food, the kids were free to watch or wander about or whatever.
And oh yes, the playing was AWESOME.
The schedule is here, showing just a few more times to see the men's team play and just one more regular season game for the ladies (Saturday, July 16 - which is also fan appreciation day, where you can see a double header for one price). So hurry on out and support this awesome local team - we'll see you there!
Lynn is mom to three tombliboos and blogs over at Turtlehead.