Soccer continues ascent locally
By Brandon Warr
Times Staff Writer
Starting an athletic program from scratch is rarely easy. But in recent years new youth soccer teams have formed in the Gunnison Valley, in large part to expose a growing cadre of kids to a more competitive level of the game.
There’s a new U-12 Gunnison team hitting the field this fall.
“We have full U-10 and U-12 programs this season, with phenomenal coaches and pretty impressive records for both teams,” said Ginny Baylor, one of the youth soccer organizers for the Gunnison Parks and Recreation Department.
Susan Powers, a longtime volunteer coach and soccer enthusiast in the Gunnison community, reached out to Baylor about the possibility of starting a new league after noticing that there was a group of kids who were eager to face stiffer competition than they were facing in the recreational league.
“I wanted to see what other opportunities there were for them,” said Powers. “Giving a group of kids the chance to play in the Colorado Soccer League seemed like the next step.”
Baylor and Powers both put in countless hours trying to figure out how to be a part of the Colorado Soccer Association (CSA) league and would ultimately decide that partnering with the West Elk Soccer Association (WESA) would be the best option in order to find more competitive options in the valley.
“WESA was very supportive of a team at this end of the valley,” said Powers. “So, essentially we are registered with Colorado Soccer Association under the umbrella of WESA.”
Tom Lewis, director of programs and coaching at WESA, has been instrumental in helping the new Gunnison program get off the ground.
Western State Colorado University’s soccer program has also decided to help out the team. Head Coach Amy Bell and the Western soccer players help coach the U-10 and U-12 youth club through soccer skills and drills every Monday.
“Having our 60 plus players on the Gateway field every Monday with the WSCU team and our rec coaches has been a wonderful opportunity,” said Baylor.
“We want to support the youth in our community and doing it through our sport is a great way to help,” added coach Bell.
Although Gunnison Park and Recreation’s U-19 team, coached by Damon Parker, has already been a part of the CSA league for many spring seasons, Powers and Baylor are still trying to learn the ins and outs of league play and logistics with the support of the families and coaches.
It costs each player $150 for the season — if they needed a uniform — and $110 if they had their uniform from this past spring. The Gunnison Parks and Recreation center has also found ways to get kids financial assistance if their families may need it.
The U-10 club soccer team is in its second season and is playing a scheduled that involves traveling to Crested Butte, Roaring Fork, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. In the spring the U-10 team had a "tournament season," where they played a couple of games on the road and then traveled to two tournaments.
“To see the growth of soccer in Gunnison is amazing,” said Powers. “I moved up from the U-10 to now coach the U-12 team and the season has been great so far.”
The U-12 club soccer team is in its first season and has traveled to Montrose, Telluride and Durango with a possibility of a tournament in Grand Junction.
With soccer going in the right direction, not only have the U-10 and U-12 programs succeeded but younger and older ages have been showing more drive, participation and commitment. Middle school teachers Sarah Strong and Gail Sovick have been able to recruit middle school players and are a huge part in helping with registration, communication to the players and families.
Even though the Gunnison Parks and Recreational U-10 and U-12 youth soccer teams entered the CSA league this fall as a "boys" teams, the U-12 team has two girls on the team who give the boys a run for their money.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)