Move Over, Futbol. Globalizaion has hit the Costa Rican playing field. Learn how you can get involved in a number of different sports.
You’ve probably noticed; ticos are football crazy. I mean the soccer type of football as opposed to Gridiron. You can’t walk 5 minutes without seeing a few jerseys from local teams or the national strip. Even in more expensive restaurants, there will be a TV set showing a local game, Mexican game, MLS or European.
If you share the tico enthusiasm for the sport you’re in the right place, but what if you prefer something with a different shape ball or no ball at all? Fortunately, Costa Rica has a number of alternative options and it’s not difficult to get involved, particularly within the Central Valley.
North American Football
The NFL has been steadily growing in popularity here in Costa Rica which has led to increasing participation in playing football here.
There are two leagues, FEFA and NTFL which are both competitive but accessible and a number of teams to potentially get involved in. Practice and recruitment is under way for the next month or so — generally in La Sabana park — so now is the perfect time to go along. The leagues start next February so there’ll be plenty of time to get up to speed and gear is often available to use.
With women’s tackle teams, U-19’s and Peewee teams also going, there is something for everyone no matter what your experience and athletic ability.
Local TV offers extensive coverage of the NFL and even College Football, much of it in Spanish but there are also some dedicated spots in San Jose like Chubbs, Mac’s and other sports bars to watch games with fellow fans.
Both the US and Canada get pretty serious about rugby and are currently competing in the Rugby World Cup held in the UK, but perhaps rugby is more popular in other countries. Either way, in some pockets of the Central Valley, rugby is very popular here with both ticos and expats enjoying this tough sport.
There are a number of teams in and around San Jose now. Rugby — like American football — is also enjoying growing popularity across different forms of the game. Women are represented also in both 15’s and the fast paced 7’s.
The Federación de Rugby de Costa Rica has more on rugby in Costa Rica and how to get involved. With the business end of the World Cup upon us, now is also the ideal time to get involved. Expect to meet Brits like me, French, Argentinians, South Africans, Italians and many others and if like me, your home nation have already been knocked out of the World Cup, come with thick skin for some good banter.
About 20 years ago, Canadian Bruce Callow founded the ice hockey program in Costa Rica. The group is based out of the Castillo Country Club, just above San Rafael de Heredia. According to Hockey News Magazine, “The Castillo Country Club, built in 1974, was and still is the only actual ice rink in all of Central America.”
Never stepped foot on ice before? Never fear; Callow teaches a beginners group on Sunday mornings from 8:30 to 11:30am. Furthermore, he explains:[quote_center]”Costa Ricans are good at soccer, so switching to hockey isn’t very hard for them.”[/quote_center]
The program has been supported by the NHL Players’ Association’s Goals and Dreams initiative, Coach Chris Maltese of California and even Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper.
As you may expect, some of the golf clubs in Costa Rica are set in quite stunning natural beauty spots which might make a not so insignificant dent in your pocket. The Central Valley has a few clubs, but there are also a number elsewhere, especially around the most popular holiday and tourist destinations.
Golf is rarely cheap, no matter which country you’re in. For regular players, the costs involved are part of the parcel. With many of the clubs, both local to San Jose and further afield, geared-up for tourists and golfing trips, what could beat getting away into the Costa Rican countryside for a few days and a few rounds of golf?
Tennis isn’t hugely popular in Costa Rica, but fortunately you don’t need much to play – a court and at least one willing opponent (maybe a racquet and a few balls would help as well). There are a couple of decent sized clubs in San Jose – by La Sabana and La Paz parks where tournaments and events are held which will cater for those of a more competitive nature as well.
Of course, all you really need to run is some ground to run on, but sometimes that either doesn’t cut it or like me, you need an awful lot of encouragement and support. The easiest option is head down to La Sabana, San Jose’s hub of all things sport, and run alongside the hundreds of others that brace the park every morning. Perhaps if you take a spare bottle of water, you can find yourself a friendly running partner.
Pasion Por Correr has information on races and lifestyle tips in Spanish for those more serious about running. For something a little different and perhaps more appealing, Costa Rica HHH promotes friendship and socialising through running and drinking beer.
Local Football (a.k.a. Soccer)
It’s popular for a reason. Few things bring people from all over together (and sometimes pull them apart) like soccer. There are pitches and fields all over the country and no shortage of people to play with. You can play whether you’re a novice or seasoned pro, and it can be as competitive or casual as you like.
If you have enough of you to form a game, you can pay for an hours usage, and you’re unlikely to be far from somewhere to play. If it’s just you, then you may need to make friends with some locals to get involved with them, but from experience, they tend to be friendly and welcoming — even if your Spanish isn’t wonderful or your skills are lacking.
Gyms with Cross-fit and other classes are widely available, and the rise of Mixed Martial Arts and the popularity of the UFC means Costa Rica is up with times as well. Check out the Costa Rica MMA on Facebook if interested. La Sabana Park also hosts all sorts of other sports and activities.
Finally, if none of the above appeals to you, then just get out there with a good pair of shoes and take in the breathtaking scenery Costa Rica has to offer. The sun, lifestyle and terrain is bound to get you fit and healthy in no time.