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30-and-over team offers soccer outlet for women

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

The way Mandy Schu Wylie remembers it, her mother couldn't wait for the two of them to be able to play soccer together.

But Wylie and her mother Gayle Ladd have for the last six years enjoyed that experience as members of the Rockdale Flash, an entry in the Masters Division (30 and over) of the Greater Atlanta Women's Soccer Association.

"It's fantastic," said Ladd, who joined the Flash 26 years ago and still occasionally plays with the team. "I was waiting on her to get old enough, and we finally got together on a 30-and-over team. Mandy played in high school and as soon as she got close to 30, she joined the team."

"It's funny -- that's your mother out there and you worry about her," said Wylie, who joined the Flash in 2004 and played on the Heritage soccer team from 1990-92. "Soccer is such a contact sport that people get taken down or fall. When it happens to her, I'm thinking, 'Is she OK?' And then I realize she's been playing for a long time and she can take it."

The Flash plays in a league with teams from Cobb, Gwinnett and surrounding metro counties, and the Masters Division also touts another local team, the Rockdale Heat, which features several competitors Wylie played with and against in high school.

"There are a couple of old teammates of mine on the Heat," said Wylie, who now lives in Decatur. "That makes it even more fun.... We have a huge rivalry (with the Heat). We all know each other and joke around before our games. It's like we're teenagers again."

The Flash closed out the season last Sunday at the Rockdale Youth Soccer Association facility on Old Salem Road, losing for the first time this fall to the visiting Quick Silverbacks.

Wylie got into soccer by conventional methods, joining up in youth leagues at a young age, but her mother and another teammate found their way to the game in a different way.

"I started playing 34 years ago," said Ladd, who now lives in Henry County. "I lived in DeKalb County at the time, and I'd go watch my brother -- who was 12 years older than me -- play soccer. There were mothers and sisters and girlfriends there and we decided to start a team. Back then, there weren't any other teams, so we played some girls from Rockdale County every Sunday. And then I joined the Flash."

"Sports was not a big thing for girls when I was in school," said Mary Klicko, who joined the Flash -- which celebrates its 30th birthday in 2011 -- 26 years ago. "I didn't start playing until I was in my 20s. I used to play the whole game, but this season, we've got like 15 or 16 people, so I wind up playing about 30 minutes a half."

Both Ladd and Klicko play on a team that represents Georgia each year in a national tournament of 50-and-over teams. Ladd is expected to join the Flash Dec. 12 and 13 in a season-ending tournament, the third annual Georgia Women's Soccer Classic.

They're also both fitness fiends. Ladd has battled knee, foot and back injuries to participate in a recent 60-mile, three-day breast cancer walk and Klicko has ran in several half marathons and also logs plenty of miles on her bike.

"I guess you could say I'm a health and exercise nut," Klicko said. "Gayle and I have run in races in Madison and I've probably run in the Peachtree Road Race 30 times."

Although Wylie said she worries about her mother getting in fixes on the field, neither Ladd nor Klicko seem to have any fear when they play.

"I love playing with my daughter," Ladd said. "She plays behind me at fullback and it's fun to hear her go, 'Go, Mama, go' when we're out there. We've had several mother-daughter tandems on the team and we have one woman whose two daughters and daughter-in-law plays. I don't play as much as I used to because those 30-year-olds are hard to chase down."

"I'm a very aggressive player, so I don't mind if it gets rough," Klicko quipped. "I like that aspect of the game."

While the women enjoy the competition and the exercise, it's clear they also greatly enjoy each other's company.

"I've been with the team so long it feels like family," said Klicko, who lives in Stockbridge. "That's really neat.... I want to keep playing as long as I can."

"It's just an awesome experience," Ladd added.

"It's a very close team," Wylie said. "That's one of the things I really like about it. There's no bickering -- we get along so well. We've become good friends and when we recruit new players we want to make sure they'll fit in. It's a good team to play on -- husbands and boyfriends and kids make up our cheering section. That's pretty hard to beat."