Steamboat Springs By the time John Cardillo had reached his sixth birthday party, he already knew that he loved everything about the game of soccer.
"I used to consume everything I could about the game," the 31-year-old Cardillo said. "I would read about it in magazines, I watched it on television when I could and I played it every single day."
These days Cardillo is a little bit older, but he still loves the game of soccer. For him, the adult recreational soccer league here in Steamboat, which is run by the Parks and Recreational Services Department, has opened a new chapter in a game he has known for most of his life.
"I enjoy the adult league because it gives me a chance to keep playing the game," Cardillo said.
He said he also likes the idea of the coed league because it gives him and his wife, who both love playing soccer, a chance to spend a night together doing something they enjoy.
"When I was growing up, soccer was always a second- or third- tier sport," Cardillo said. "But lately it has been getting more respect, and recognition, here in the United States. I want to play it now, more than ever."
The adult recreational league features 10 local teams. Each of those teams plays once a week either on Tuesday or Thursday nights. Games during the first half of the season are held at Ski Town Park. Those games are moved to Whistler Park for the second half.
The games consist of two 45-minute halves in which players ranging from their late teens to over 40 get a chance to keep playing the game.
Creekside captain Jason Landers said the league has become increasingly competitive the past several years, which has been both good and bad for the league.
"On the field it is very serious, but off the field it is very social," Landers said.
"Sometimes things get way too serious, and sometimes players seem to forget that this is just an adult recreational league. But for the most part, the players are just out to have a good time"
This year Landers said the local players have kept their competitive edge in check it's a trend that he is happy to see.
Landers said there have been a lot of changes in the local league in the 10 years he has been involved with it. When he started there were as many as 20 teams playing in the local league. Over time he said many of the weaker teams have dropped out, but the really good players from those squads have stayed around by migrating to current squads. He thinks this has condensed a high amount of talented players on the 10 teams in the league. He said this has increased the competitive level of play on the field, but it has also limited the number of new teams that want to stay in the league for more than one year.
"Nobody wants to come out and get their (tails) kicked every game," Landers said. "It can be frustrating for some of the new teams, so they don't come back the following year."
The number of new teams that survive in the league may be limited; however, adult soccer still draws more than 200 players to the fields each summer. On any given night, Landers said there might be 60 players in the game and another 100 people along the sidelines watching, picnicking and just absorbing the atmosphere the league has to offer.
"It's almost always a really good time," Landers said. "I think that's the real reason most people come out to play."