Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : March 2005

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How You Play the Game
By Patrick Tandy


Mediator (and sometime-center defender) Cecilia Paizs

“Whether I win or lose is not important to me,” admits Cecilia Paizs from the quiet comfort of her law office in Ellicott City, Maryland. “Sometimes that creates a real problem.”

But Paizs is speaking neither as mediator nor family law practitioner this afternoon; instead, the New Jersey native is reconciling the realities of middle age with the sport she so dearly loves to play: soccer.

“I love to play and exercise, and those are really my primary goals,” notes Paizs, who turned 50 last month. “One of the problems that I run into is that some of the younger players are still playing as if it’s World Cup and they’ve got to win, whereas I’m out there because I love the sport. I mean, I [recently] played in a game where I went to head a ball and this girl came flying into me with her elbow down and split my head open. And I’m sitting there looking at her going, ‘Why in the world did you hit me? What was the purpose?’ I had headed the ball already; there was no way you were going to get [it]. Why do you have to come flying into me?”

But logic, as Paizs suggests, is often the first casualty in such fast-paced competition. “Sometimes they’ll look at me and say, ‘Well, then don’t play,’” she explains. “[But] the deal is, ‘No, no, no – if you were a skilled player it wouldn’t have happened, so why should I, as an older player with skill, not play? Maybe you shouldn’t play because you can’t play soccer.’”

She pauses, sporting a Cheshire Cat-grin born of some secret inner wisdom. “But I don’t say that,” she admits. “Believe it or not, even as a lawyer I hold my tongue on occasion.”


As a child growing up near Morristown, New Jersey, Paizs enjoyed playing soccer – that was, until she reached high school.

“It was pre-Title IX [of the 1972 Education Amendments Act],” she explains. “They didn’t have girls’ soccer, and they wouldn’t let me play with the boys, so I had to do other sports.”

Over the years, Paizs got her fitness fix from a variety of sources, including, for a time, gymnastics. The growing complexities of her law practice and life as a career-military wife only further distanced Paizs from the sport she loved so much in youth, but a chance meeting with a neighbor while living in Arlington, Virginia, one day turned that all around.

“When my husband and I got married, we moved into a neighborhood where we [met] a woman who was running a league down in Arlington, and I got back into it there and started playing,” Paizs notes. “So every time we moved, I tried to find someone, a team to play soccer with.”

Paizs spent a number of years playing on “co-ed” teams on which she often found herself the only female. “I stopped playing co-ed about two years ago, when I got my nose broken in a game and decided that the young fellas I was playing with were a little too excitable,” she laughs. “So I don’t do that anymore.”

When Paizs and her family finally settled in the Howard County area in 1996, she promptly took up playing with a women’s league run by the Soccer Association of Columbia/Howard County.

“[The league is] now run by Howard County Parks and Rec,” says Paizs, whose better-honed skills have landed her in the league’s B Division – a step up from her C Division-start. “I basically play indoor during the winter and outdoor during the spring and fall. I play on an open division – you can be any age [over 25 years old]. They used to have an over-40 league, but they couldn’t get enough over-40 women to do the indoor, so they dropped that. So now I have to go back and play with the young things.”

Today, Paizs plays a variety of positions for her team, the Ya-Ya Chasers. “They started in Chevy Chase, which is why they got that name,” she explains. “I’m usually either center midfielder or center defender, but they move me around – any place but goalie.”

“I love soccer because you can be any shape or size and play this sport,” she adds. “There was a game I played last summer where there was a woman who was – and I’m not that tall, I’m only about five-foot-three – she was about five-foot-one, by probably about two feet. She was pretty wide, [but] she was the fastest thing on that field. I was the center defender, and she beat my butt.

In addition to soccer’s openness to physical diversity, Paizs sees other benefits to a game that, despite years of worldwide appeal, has only in recent years begun to spike in domestic popularity. “It’s constantly moving,” she says. “You don’t stop every few minutes, like in football. [And] I love the fact that you’re thinking on the field. [Like practicing law], soccer is a problem-solving thing, too. One of the things I like about soccer is [that] every team is different. If [you’re] playing in a team that might have one player who is really very good, then you have to adjust your play to protect yourself against that player. So it’s always looking for the solution to, ‘Okay, this is a good defender, so how do you get around him?’ or ‘This is a really good goalie – how do you get around him?’

“A lot of parents are choosing soccer over, say, football for boys, and for girls it’s also being selected over other activities,” Paizs adds. And she sees the desire to play the game spreading from children to their parents.

“Having parents start to play, they start to love the sport,” she says. “It’s a little different [for] people who never play the sport, [where] they sit there on the sideline and judge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to a parent on my daughter’s team and said, ‘You get out there and try it. You try and get to that ball before that other player…”


In the meantime, Paizs, who will continue to play indoor soccer until outdoor play resumes in April, still practices what she preaches.

“My original goal was to make it to 50,” notes Paizs, who will travel to North Carolina in June to play in her first tournament. “Of course, I made that goal when I was 42, and now I’m 50. I just want to keep playing, and I want to play at a level where my teammates want me on the field, versus tolerate me on the field. So far that’s true. The key thing is that if I get to the point where I’m either more of a danger to myself and other people on the field I’ll have to stop.”

Outside of soccer, Paizs makes a point of running two or three days a week to stay in shape. “My doctors have all told me you have to go have all these stupid tests and stuff,” she laughs. “[But] all my levels seem to be good – my bone-density is good, my muscle mass is good, that kind of thing. And they attribute it to the fact that I’ve stayed active.”

“The biggest problem is slowing down,” she admits. “There was game where, as a defender, they had me covering a woman who was 26 years old and had graduated from Penn State after playing there for four years – and Penn State is one of the top female programs in the country. I felt much better about the fact she didn’t score, but I couldn’t do it for more than 10 minutes at a time. It’s just a fact of life, you slow down a little, so eventually there’ll probably be [a time] where I switch over to something else that’s probably less contact-related.”

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: March, 2005

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