When I was 30 years old playing soccer I said I’d be happy if I was still playing when I was 45. That was before I met Margaret Danner. Margaret started playing soccer when she was 45 years old. She is 67 now. In my 30s I thought Margaret was crazy. Now I think she is inspiring.
Margaret doesn’t just play soccer, she wins. She plays on co-ed Over 30 teams, on open women’s soccer teams and on three different competitive Over 60 teams. The competitive teams travel all over the US and to other countries. Although Margaret hasn’t traveled out of the country to compete yet, she plans to.
Margaret inspires me because she approached soccer with complete abandon. She never prefaces her conversations about soccer with anything about her age. To hear her rehash a recent game you’d think she was talking about the World Cup. She analyzes plays and playing – of herself and others. She is not happy if her team doesn’t win, but she is also not unhappy because she recognizes the gift of just being well and able to play. We all do.
Margaret says she uses soccer as a stress release, relishing the opportunity to run and exercise. Right now she has plenty to be stressed about. She is still working as a Special Education aid so she can continue to provide health insurance for herself and her husband who has been battling cancer for years. She also helps her daughter by babysitting her three young children. Soccer at the end of the week is what keeps her going.
She says she enjoys meeting people from all over. Getting to know people of all ages and backgrounds is one of the best things about continuing to play soccer. Margaret comes from a small town in California, but the teams she plays on include a team from Michigan, one from Hawaii and one from California. She says although people have differences, on the field they are all working together for the goal and for the win.
As a soccer player, Margaret is in awe of people who have great skills. One of those players she most admires is her daughter, who played competitively in college. Margaret loves that she has the opportunity to share the love of soccer and to actually play on teams with her daughter. Her goal is to play as long as she can keep moving and as long as she continues to improve her skills.
Watching someone do what they love and love what they do is a treat. Being part of team with a person who defies the norms and barriers of age is a priceless opportunity for passive encouragement and reassurance. Knowing someone who is past the age of social security and putting on her women’s soccer shoes to go win is the kind of thing that gives hope to all of us, regardless of our age.