AFTER THE WHISTLE

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— Weeknight games on Front Range a hassle

On Tuesday night, the Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team's season came to an end with a heartbreaking, overtime loss to Broomfield in Broomfield.

The loss had to be a disappointment for the Sailors, who obviously had dreams of making it to the state championship game. But the Tuesday evening affair was also disappointing, I'm sure, for many local soccer fans who were either working on Tuesday afternoon in Steamboat Springs or didn't want to make the three-hour-plus drive to Broomfield for a single game then turn around and head back to Steamboat in time to be at work Wednesday morning.

It seems strange to me that a state playoff game, and in fact the state championship game in girls soccer, would be played on a Tuesday evening.

But even stranger is the fact that most girls teams in the state seem to support the idea of the Tuesday night championship game that will take place next week.

"The first time it happened it was an accident," Colorado High School Activities Association spokeswoman Judy Barnett said. "But attendance went up and everybody seemed to like it, so we just kept doing it."

Barnett said she hasn't heard any complaints about the current playoff schedule and that much thought goes into deciding when and where the games will take place.

But while a Tuesday night playoff game might be more popular along the Front Range, I have to wonder if it is fair for teams on the Western Slope that have to travel hours to get to games on a weekday night.

Sure parents will take off the day to watch their children play, but for those folks who are just fans of good soccer, taking a day or two off work is a lot to ask.

Steamboat Springs Athletics Director Steve Moos also said the timing of the game makes it hard for students, who are still in school, to make it to the Front Range to support the local team. Sailors head coach Jim Dudley also admits that the student attendance at last Tuesday's game was down a bit.

Let's face it: The Tuesday night schedule for playoff games is great if you live in the Denver area, but it is really a pain if you live here on the Western Slope.

Parents and fans are forced to take an entire day, or a large part of one, to make the three- or four-hour drive to Denver or Colorado Springs.

I'm sure the decision is based in timing. In most cases I think administrators would like to have the girls state championship game completed before the students graduate and leave for summer break. It would be hard to do this with the limited number of weekends available in the spring.

Dudley agrees and thinks it would be impossible to do away with the mid-week games.

OK, OK, that's fine. If state soccer playoff games have to be played during the week, I understand.

But what about the championship?

It would be nice to see the big games played on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday that would make it easier for parents and fans to justify making a long trip and missing work.

A Saturday game would also make it possible for student fans to make it to the game without missing classes. Isn't keeping students involved the real focus of high school athletics, anyway?

Barnett said the decision to hold the games on a Tuesday evening is not written in stone and with the support of enough schools could be changed. The 3A girls state soccer championship game is still played on a weekend.

But it is also obvious that the limited number of playoff teams on this side of the Continental Divide will make change unlikely in the future. The majority of girls soccer teams come from the Denver and Colorado Springs area it's just a fact.

And while it's true that a Tuesday night sate championship game would be a pain for most local fans, I'm sure most of them would trade a day of work for the chance to see our local teams win another title.

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