Soccer club takes to the road

Competition helps to bring the best out of players

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— Roddy Beall thinks he could play soccer all day, every day, and with just four months off to play basketball, he comes pretty close.

Beall is just one of a handful of boys that have chosen to play club soccer outside of Steamboat Springs from March through May.

Beall said the talent on the soccer fields in the Denver area is unparalleled in Colorado.

"The level of competition is incredible," he said. "I've played with and against national team members. They are really good."

Beall added a little extra emphasis to good, but noted that he and the other Sailors that spend a significant part of their spring in Denver, aren't getting run around in the big city.

"The tradition that we have in Steamboat is such that we are right at that level," Beall said. "The high school level of soccer here has prepared us so that we can actually shine at this level."

Rob Bohlmann coaches both the boys and girls in Steamboat. He believes participation in club programs provides a wealth of benefits to the high school soccer programs and its players. He said the numbers of kids that elect to play club varies from class to class, but estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of his girls play in the summer or fall, opposite their seasons.

"From a soccer-specific standpoint, the more they train and the more competitive games they are in, the more beneficial it is," he said. "I would say without club soccer, no, the program wouldn't be as successful. The top programs provide the highest playing level."

Bohlmann said upwards of 95 percent of the players from teams in Denver play club ball, so it isn't a coincidence some of the premier programs in the state are in the metro area.

There may be a perception that kids feel forced into club ball in any sport because many don't see how any player could enjoy his or her sport that much. Beall proves that isn't always true. Girls like Lia Utu and Julie Wernig help buck that thought further.

"I wanted to do it," Wernig said. "My parents told me it was going to be a big commitment, but I wanted to have the experience. I'm glad I did it."

Both Utu and Wernig noticed significant changes in their game once they began playing club ball. Wernig said her overall speed improved, while Utu pointed to increased game knowledge as a lesson she learned from the players she competed with and against.

"When I feel challenged and pushed I work harder," Utu said. "After the first year I was more connected with what was going on on the field."

Former girls coach Jim Dudley got Utu involved in Denver during the summer of 2000. Wernig joined Utu on the now Colorado Edge select that fall during their junior year. Several other Sailors compete in club outside of Steamboat. Junior Nikki Garth travels to Ft. Collins, Mike Rinn and Kyle Nelson play with Beall. Kellen Carlson and Michael Holland also play in Denver.

Wernig, Utu and Beall are all completing their final year of high school, and while Beall still has another month of club soccer to go, the girls' club season concluded in November.

"Club is for people in the sport for the sport, not the social aspect," Utu said. "It takes determination, work ethic and time."

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