What has legs, no shoes, runs in the sand and is tons of fun?
That would be beach soccer, of course. While the swallows return to Capistrano in March, April marks the return of beach soccer to the sands of America's Finest Soccer City, San Diego.
The launch of beach soccer in San Diego starts with Beach Soccer Jam which makes its fourth annual appearance at San Diego’s Fiesta Island on April 28 and 29. Beach Soccer Jam is fun for the soccer lovers and the whole family with matches, entertainment, food and an all-around good time for everyone.
San Diego is a city of great soccer and fabulous beaches and with more than 31 million visitors a year spending over $7.5 billion, beach soccer is a natural sport.
Just what is beach soccer?
Well, think Over-the-Line with a larger ball and more family friendly team names. Actually, beach soccer got its beginnings where else, but in the soccer-mad country of Brazil. With hundreds of miles of beautiful sandy beaches and a population that lives and breathes the beautiful game, it’s no wonder some enterprising players decided to put the two together some 30 years ago at Leme Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
In the 1980s the sport began to move north, and in 1992 the rules were standardized. The first professional competition was organized in Miami Beach in 1993 and there are now beach soccer tournaments all over the world.
Beach soccer has been called a “faster, hotter version of the world's most popular sport.” With a soft sand surface, players are more willing make acrobatic shots such as diving headers and bicycle kicks. Because of the nature of sand, the game is played more in the air, with frequent headers, volleys, juggles and quick flicks – all in an effort to keep the ball off the unpredictable surface.
The size of the pitch differs as well, measuring 30x40 yards for a more compact, fast-paced game. Players may return the ball into play either through kick-ins or throw-ins, goalies may only throw the ball back into play and there are no offsides. In addition, a match consists of three 12-minute periods rather than two halves or four quarters.Many of the rules of beach soccer are the same as in traditional soccer, with a few important differences.
PASL Champions San Diego Sockers @ Beack Soccer Jam - Photo Credit: Aaron Jaffe
Besides the obvious surface differences, beach soccer teams are made up of five players, four field players and one goalkeeper (at the youngest levels this is increased to 6 players, five in the field). Players may not wear shoes or shin guards, although they may wear socks, and now specially-designed beach soccer socks are becoming popular to guard against the hot sand.
Soccer Beach Jam Highlights
One of the hippest and wildest beach soccer tournaments, Beach Soccer Jam has proven to be more than just a soccer tournament. “Beach Soccer Jam 2012 promises to be the most entertaining beach soccer event on the entire west coast,” guarantees Beach Soccer Jam Co-Director Rick La Salle. Along with an expected 150 to 250 teams playing a guaranteed three matches each, the sands will be rocking with Brazilian dancers, Capoeira demonstrations, and some exciting one-on-one contests.
Last year’s entertainment included Samba dancers from Brazilian Productions, capoeira entertainment combining martial arts, sports and music, and Brazilian-style Samba groups. For the more soccer-minded, the weekend featured a War of the Keepers competition, a tennis-like Foot Volley contest and the appearance of San Diego Sockers legends including Juli Veee, Raffi Ruotolo (now a Beach Soccer Jam Co-Director), Brian Quinn and others. All these events and more are expected at the 2012 Beach Soccer Jam.
“Beach Soccer Jam is kicking off the Beach Soccer season by more than doubling our entertainment component,” says La Salle. “Beach Soccer Jam is an entertainment event with a soccer tournament inside. The biggest reasons for people to attend Beach Soccer Jam are the fun, the games, the entertainment and the easy parking. We’re also having a contest for the best team name this year. It will be fun.”
“Our tournament differs from others because we want to make sure the participants don’t just have a great time playing,” says Co-Director Ruotolo.
“We will make sure to keep them and their families entertained throughout the event with activities such as Foot Volley, War of the Keepers, Brazilian dancers, Sockers Legend game and more. We have built an event where, even if you are not participating on the pitch, you can come and enjoy the various activities going on throughout the weekend.”
As Beach Soccer Jam has grown, La Salle and Ruotolo found the need for a third member on the team, so they recruited Bob Turner, President of Presidio Soccer League to join them. It didn’t take much to convince Turner to get in on the fun.
“After talking with coaches, parents and players about beach soccer it became quite apparent that Beach Soccer is going to grow in popularity,” Turner explains.
“Everyone I spoke with said they had a lot of fun and loved the experience. That moved me to become involved with Beach Soccer Jam, as it has a great location and potential for growth. They have done an awesome job of combining the soccer and event experience like no other, and we are only looking to improve the tournament each year,” says Turner.
This year Beach Soccer Jam will feature nine different divisions, including Competitive and AYSO Youth divisions, Men’s and Women’s Open and Over-30 divisions, Adult Co-Ed, Military, and Pro. Minimum team roster size is six players, with a maximum roster size of ten; Adult Co-Ed teams must have a minimum of three women on the roster. Entry fee is $425 per team or $500 for Pro Division teams.
Beach Soccer Jam has grown steadily in popularity since it began four years ago, and La Salle and his team see only more of the same ahead. While last year’s tournament had the misfortune to coincide with the Easter weekend, a similar conflict is not expected for some years to come. This year promises to be another fun and successful installment in the successful Beach Soccer Jam series.