This week, Fieldhouse Sports in Bow will close its doors. The sprawling indoor facility has been home to amateur soccer leagues since 1997. Hundreds of teams, and thousands of people, play on the fields every week, from kids as young as 3 years old to adults in their 70s.
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— Fieldhouse 1.jpg
"I just think about soccer as such a beautiful game. I feel really satisfied after a game when we've passed well, and we have moved in formations where we're able to get open for one another, and we're all working together as a unit, and communicating well with each other, and switching places on the field—and laughing!" said Beth Ketaineck, 41 (background left, in green).
Ashley Fudala (in green at foreground left) dribbling the ball. Teammates Ketaineck and Justine Paradis, 33, (at right, in green) looks on.
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Aubrey Nelson, 36, coaching her teammates from the sidelines during a game.
"I can play in a game with women, and I can worry: Am I playing quick enough? How are my skills? But I don't have to think, at least in the moment, about sexism. That distraction is removed from my play. It just removes that lens from your space and it's really relaxing," said Nelson.
"This is my island of exercise once a week… it's one of the only times in my life where I feel like I am able to completely take time for myself. I'm taking care of a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old right now. It's this hopeful space where I don't have to think about any of that, and I can just focus on the beautiful game, and being with other women who make me laugh."
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Sara Persechino, fourth from left, has been playing at Fieldhouse Sports for 25 years, since she was a 9-year-old. Her 9-year-old daughter played her first season this January.
"I probably do not understand even at this point what it’s going to mean for me when the Fieldhouse is finally closed. I don’t know that I can properly envision that, and what it has meant to me, in my life. But I’m really grateful for it, and for the people who work there and made it work, and I’m grateful for all of the teammates that I’ve had. It’s just been so nice. And I’ll miss it," said Persechino, 34.
Courtesy Sara Persechino
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"I was growing up at a time when soccer was becoming more common, I think, in our culture as Americans… the time of the ‘99ers. The U.S. women's soccer team was going around on a tour and they were making soccer cool for girls. There was a huge, I think—not that they would have named it that, but—feminist wave that rode with them on that journey… it became my identity. I was a soccer player," said Sara Persechino, 34.
Photo: USA's Brandi Chastain reacts to her winning penalty kick that won the 1999 World Cup for the U.S. National Team in their game against the China in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., Saturday July 10, 1999. After scoring the championship-winning goal, Chastain ripped off her jersey, swung it over her head and waited to be mobbed by her jubilant U.S. teammates. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Anacleto Rapping)
ANACLETO RAPPING/ASSOCIATED PRESS / LOS ANGELES TIMES
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Kenley Persechino, age 9, during her first (and last) soccer session at Fieldhouse Sports in Bow, New Hampshire.
When asked what it's like to watch her mother play soccer, she said it's "a learning experience."
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Kenley Persechino, age 9, played goalie during her first season at Fieldhouse Sports. At first, she was afraid, but found a way through her fear by watching others play.
"When I started being in goal, I used to always use my feet. But now I dive after the ball. I literally lunge at it," she said.
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Justine Paradis traps the ball during a game at Fieldhouse Sports.
Sheila Weldon, another player in the women's league, graduated from high school in 1967, five years before the passage of Title IX.
"All sports were for males: football, baseball, basketball... nothing for girls at all. I love the game. I wish I had grown up playing soccer because that probably would have been my passion... You can just see the difference. It took me a long time to look up and dribble with the ball, where I see my granddaughters, and it's just so natural," said Weldon.
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"It was empowering for me to find soccer again after my second daughter was born. I had dealt with some postpartum depression… and it was kind of amazing to find soccer again, and also this group of women who were out there doing something for themselves. Reclaiming some of my identity from motherhood. It’s an hour a week. It’s not a lot. But it does give you that separate space," said Sara Persechino.
The Grass Kickers after their last game at the Fieldhouse.
Back row, from left: Chelsea Carney, Abbey Simon, Kristie Hallberg, Morgan Bemis, Aubrey Nelson, and Sara Persechino.
Front row, left to right: Justine Paradis, Terri Hammond, Beth Ketaineck, Ashley Fudala, Stephanie Kehas, and Megan White.
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"I don't want them to close... [I feel] sad, angry, upset," said Kenley Persechino, age 9.
"I'm really disappointed. I really feel like losing this opportunity is significant for my week, for my exercise, for my body, for my relationships. I know that there are possibilities of playing elsewhere, but to my knowledge, there is no place as convenient and played in the same way," said Beth Ketaineck, age 41.
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— Equal Pay Act
Beth Ketaineck is a big fan of the women's national team (pictured above, in 2019). "I've read a lot of books written by women's national team players. I read Abby Wambach's book, I read Carli Lloyd's book, I read Hope Solo's book, I read Megan Rapinoe's book. And just hearing ways in which they've been treated throughout their careers and what motivates them to continue to enact change in spite of ways in which they're treated so differently from their male counterparts is inspiring. It's about so much more than the sport itself. It's about taking the platform that they have in trying to make real change with that," said Beth Ketaineck.
"I think about my mom when she was 41, and she was definitely not playing sports (she also did not have opportunities that I did when she was in high school). And I think about what that means as a role model for my children, knowing that mommy goes every Monday night, it's mommy’s soccer night."
Alessandra Tarantino/AP / AP
This closure opens up a huge hole in the lives for many people in southern New Hampshire.
And it's not just about soccer. For some of the players in the 25-and-older women's league, it's also raises theme of motherhood, sexism, the Dobbs ruling and the importance of the third space.
"I'm really disappointed. I really feel like losing this opportunity is significant for my week, for my exercise, for my body, for my relationships," said Beth Ketaineck, 41.
NHPR's Justine Paradis spoke to a few of her teammates about playing "the beautiful game" as an adult and what the space has meant to them.
Special thanks to the Grass Kickers for allowing Justine to record their final games, and to Kenley Persechino. Music by Aaron Ximm and Matt Large.