When Kim Dias moved to Caledonia, Ont., several years ago, she figured the best way to meet women in her community was to join a recreational sports team. She was right.
"I have met some wonderful women since I have played with this team and continue to speak with many of them during the off-season," the 31-year-old public health nurse explains of her three-pitch baseball league. "The women are out to have fun and socialize."
Fun, fitness and fair play
Having fun with the girls may be exactly what drives women to women-only team sports but they're also gaining health rewards. "For women, there's certainly a myriad of fitness benefits – it improves your cardio, your endurance and in some cases your flexibility," says McGill University fitness coordinator Jill Barker.
If you'd like to join a team, Barker suggests picking a sport you've played before, no matter how long ago, so you'll have some confidence on the field. Also, try to get in on a start-up so all players are at the same level. Otherwise, tell the league you're new so they'll place you with players of similar skill.
Here's a rundown on just some of the most popular team sports for women:
The goal: Recreational soccer involves five to seven teammates on the field trying to score in the opponent's net.
Why should you play? If you watched the 1999 World Cup Finals, in which U.S. soccer player Brandi Chastain scored the winning penalty kick – and took off her shirt to celebrate – you probably realized how beautiful, challenging and thrilling the game is. Soccer involves a lot of running so you'll get your heart pumping while having fun.
Why women-only? "It's the only fair playing field and the truest gauge of talent," says Paula Krulicki, a production coordinator in Toronto who has played soccer for over 20 years. "There is less apprehension about going into tackles against other women."
Page 1 of 2 – Find 4 more team sports women are playing (like water polo!) on page 2.
The goal: Called soccer in a pool, players on both teams tread water while trying to throw the ball into the opponent's net.
Why should you play? "I think women love it because, simply put, it's really great game," says Lila Fraser, 28, who plays for the national team out of Montreal. "It is very strategy-oriented while requiring incredible fitness, finesses, endurance and strength."
Why women-only? While Fraser says playing co-ed is great for improving your game, men tend to feel awkward in mixed male and female teams as it's a contact sport.
The goal: Whether ice hockey, floor hockey or field hockey, two teams compete to drive a ball or puck into the opponent's net. Recreational leagues usually favour no-contact gameplay.
Why should you play? It's Canada's national sport, and we rock at it! Team Canada had the Midas touch at the 2002 Winter Olympics when both the men's and women's teams won gold. It's great exercise: a 130-pound woman blasts 258 calories playing 30 minutes of hockey.
Why women-only? Although no-contact, hockey can be intense. Women may feel more confident and less fearful of someone double their size accidentally knocking them down.
The goal: Synchronized swimming is a graceful sport that combines swimming, gymnastics and ballet.
Why should you play? A great all-encompassing sport, synchronized swimming builds endurance, strength, coordination and speed.
Why women-only? According to Synchro Canada, the sport's governing body, 98 percent of participants are female, so you'll be hard-pressed to find any other team. Visit: synchro.ca
The goal: While the ball, pitch and size of the field are different, softball and baseball involve two teams taking turns at bat to try to score runs.
Why should you play? Films like A League of Their Own and Field of Dreams idealize the sport, with good reason. The sport transports you back to childhood when you grabbed your friends, a bat, ball and glove, headed to the park and had fun until Mom or Dad called you in for dinner. This game requires coordination, concentration and speed, and offers time to socialize when your team is at bat.
Why women-only? "Even if a mistake or bad play is made, women are able to keep the perspective of having fun," explains Dias.
Visit: baseball.ca, softball.ca
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