The final whistle has been blown and players from the Blue and Yellow teams are beginning to mingle on the sideline after the season-opening game of the Charlotte Women’s Soccer League spring season.
After waiting the entire game to speak with her, a patient young woman approaches Julia Barringer, the league’s 59-year-old manager and a member of the Blue team, about joining the league.
“You’re 18?” says Barringer, repeating the woman’s answer to her question. “How about if we split the difference in age?”
That quick exchange represents the inclusiveness of the CWSL, the city’s only 11-on-11 all-women’s soccer league.
Whether you’re 18 or 59 years old, you can play.
The CWSL has increased its number of teams to eight in 2012-13 and added a venue so all of its games could be played on Thursday nights. Matches are played at Davie and Elon parks in Charlotte.
Amber Hardesty, 28, lives off of Independence Boulevard in East Charlotte and has been playing in the CWSL for four years. She is a Blue team co-captain and plays in two other co-ed soccer leagues but enjoys the nuances of this league.
“It’s a little bit different game when you have all women,” Hardesty said. “You’ve got a lot of different experience levels. We have two mother-daughter combos on our team. That’s just not something you see in a co-ed league. It’s a different competitive league. Co-ed leagues are typically more competitive because they have guys in them.”
Janis Young, a 59-year-old resident of Foxcroft, helped found a four-team league in 1978 by taking members of her recreational volleyball team and turning them into soccer players. The league established a partnership with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation in the mid-1980s and adopted by-laws.
Young and her 29-year old daughter, Allie Utz, form one of the mother-daughter combos on the Blue team. Allie’s younger sister, Abby Young, also has played in the league.
The other mother-daughter combination is Synthia Kearney and her daughter Lauren Santana. Kearney, who lives in Gastonia, is playing in the CWSL for the first time since the ’80s when she was a teammate of Janis Young’s.
“Lauren couldn’t decide whether she wanted to be on my team or play against me,” said Kearney. “We’re both forwards. When she found out we were on the same team she said ‘Get me the ball, I’ll score.’ ”
Each of the eight teams keeps a core of four players from year to year, including two co-captains. Other players may be directed to switch teams through a blind draft. Last fall, only two of the eight teams had losing records.
League directors say they try to keep parity by distributing skilled players among the teams. Rosters are selected prior to the fall season and they remain the same through the spring season.
“It’s a landing spot for women who have played soccer,” Barringer said. “And for women who have moved in from out of town. It’s one of the first things they look for.”
Kathy Flanagan, a 41-year-old Waxhaw resident, joined the CWSL the day after she moved from Philadelphia a year and a half ago.
“We all mesh because we like soccer,” Flanagan said. “We come from different levels of play. There are some people who played in college and some who haven’t played since eighth grade. We all come out because we love soccer.”