On Saturday I went for a jog on the boardwalk, like I do three other days out of the week. I figure if I have to stay in shape—a goal I set for myself—the easiest way to do so would be to find some sort of enjoyment in it. So I run, and I run in places where I can relax and enjoy the surrounding and scenery.
The boardwalk is my ideal, perfect place for a jog. I like weaving in and out of the crowds of people walking and people riding bikes. I like looking in at the stores as I move swiftly by and deciding that the next time I come up I’m going to buy that sweatshirt I always see in the window. And I like smelling the salty ocean breeze and looking out at the beaches. There’s something about running beside a beach that I can’t really explain. It’s like the water and the sand—the two combined—instantly relax you. It’s my favorite thing to look at.
But this Saturday things were different when I went for my run on the boardwalk. I looked out at the beach and saw swarms of people, swarms at a ridiculously large size. I stopped and went over to the railing to see what was going on.
I have to admit I was confused at first. I saw lines of people forming tiny rectangles all over the beach, and they seemed to have stretched for miles. I don’t think I have ever seen the beach that crowded, wondering what the rectangles were for. Then I saw nets at each end, and I saw little kids running around, five at a time, trying to pass the ball to each other and get it in the goal at the other end. It was the Beach Blast Soccer Tournament.
I kind of hated myself at first for not realizing what the event was sooner, for I used to play in it when I was on my traveling soccer team back in grade school. And as much as I loved playing soccer on a regular field, playing on the beach was a completely different, and better, experience, and I looked forward to the tournament every year.
There’s something about running on a beach that I can’t really explain. It’s like the water and the sand—the two combined—instantly relax you. Even if you are playing in a soccer game. But that’s what made the tournament so fun. I got to combine my favorite sport with my favorite place to make the ultimate exercising experience—and it was enjoyable.
Every year my team anticipated the tournament. It was an event that we made special uniforms for, usually consisting of crazy, outrageous tie-dye shirts and matching socks. We looked forward to the Beach Blast because we got to play with only five players at a time, which meant we all got equal turns with the ball, and we got to play barefoot. And even though it would be smoldering hot most years, knowing that we could jump right in the ocean after our games was a treat.
But perhaps the thing we liked the most about the Beach Blast Tournament was how it brought us closer together as a team. It was a bonding experience. We got to take part in something we all loved, and we got to do it together. And it didn’t matter who won or lost, which is now something that matters so much in sports these days, even when kids are young. It was more about fun. It was playing on the beach with your friends, going for a swim after, and then heading up to the boardwalk for a slice of pizza after all was said and done.
When I looked over the railing on Saturday, seeing the kids laughing and smiling while they were kicking the ball around brought back all of those fond memories, some of which were memories that I’m going to remember throughout my life. I couldn’t tell you if my team won a single game, which I’m sure we did. But that’s not what I remember, and it’s not something I should remember. What I took away from the Beach Blast Soccer Tournament was friendship and fun and fitness, and how you can have all three at the same time.