Dena Floyd has logged 29 of her 34 years on a soccer field, but, these days, she's caring for her young son. And, as she hits her mid-30s, she wants to make sure she's still a tough competitor on the field. So, she wasn't exactly looking for another soccer team to play on.
But, when she heard about Oak City Futbol Club, the new semi-professional women's soccer team in Raleigh, she decided to give it a shot and made it. She's playing center back on a team that includes current college players, recent college players and long-time players like Floyd.
"I think it was meant to be because it worked out," Floyd told me. "I feel like I'm playing pretty well."
Oak City FC opened its first season in June. It's part of the Women's Premiere Soccer League, which started in 1998 and is the largest women's soccer league in the world with more than 100 teams across the United States.
Oak City owner Lindsey DeLorenze, who also is the league's regional commissioner of the Carolinas, launched the team to offer women soccer players in the area an opportunity to improve their play. It also gives the region's thousands of soccer fans - young and old - another opportunity to see some competitive soccer. The team's home field is at WRAL Soccer Park in north Raleigh.
Floyd started her soccer career at age 5 in Virginia. She continued through college as a four-year player on the University of Florida women's soccer team. She served as captain in 2003 when the team made it to the elite eight. After graduation, she played for other semi-professional women's teams. She also worked as a strength and conditioning coach at Stanford University, helping seven teams, including the men's and women's soccer teams.
Floyd arrived in Raleigh in 2009 to serve as an assistant women's soccer coach for N.C. State and ended up playing on a variety of co-ed recreational soccer teams.
"The competition is really good here because the people who went to Duke, N.C. State, UNC stay," said Floyd, who helped coach "There's so much talent in the area."
She recently completed a master's degree at N.C. State and is now working as athletic director at Woods Charter School in Chapel Hill.
She loves the sport - even after three decades.
"I like the fact it's team oriented and not an individual sport. You have to do well as a team," she said. "It gives you a family off the field. I feel like my whole life, I've had that family - since the age of 5."
It also can be a sometimes frustrating game, which just makes Floyd work harder.
"If you are the better team in soccer, you might not win," she said. "You have to fight through adversity."
Floyd's son Jase, 18 months, has become a mini mascot for the team. He sometimes comes to practices. But, most of the time, he hangs with his dad so Floyd can have time to do her own thing. And that, she said, has been great too.
Oak City FC has two games this weekend - 4 p.m., Saturday, and 1 p.m., Sunday. Tickets, which are $6, are on sale on the team's website. Kids 6 and under are free. If the team wins both games this weekend, they could be headed to the playoffs. Floyd said they've had some good crowds - as many as 300 in the stands.
"To me, it feels just like college all over again," she said. "It's just good for the sport and women's soccer in general."
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.