Steamboat Springs The Balvanz home has been soccer central since February.
As director for the upcoming Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament, Elmer Balvanz has fielded an average of 10 to 15 calls a day regarding the July 19-21 tournament, and his wife Debra has jokingly called their telephone number a hotline for the past five months.
"The hours are endless," Balvanz said. "You get out of it what you put in. It's all for the kids."
Balvanz's children, Nicole and Andrew, are two of the nearly 2,400 soccer players from the 131 teams registered for this weekend's tournament. Add coaches, parents and siblings to the equation, and the total number of people drawn to Steamboat for the 18th annual Mountain Soccer Tournament increases to more than 7,000.
"There were teams that didn't get in because we didn't have room," Rick Garth, registration coordinator, said. "Some are still coming up just to come to Steamboat and watch."
Those opting to be spectators instead of participants will have the opportunity to catch some quality soccer from both local and out-of-town teams, Balvanz said.
Eleven teams from Steamboat are registered. In the girls' division there are teams in the Under 10, U-11, U-12, U-13, U-14 and U-18 brackets. The boys will be represented in the U-10, U-11, U-12, U-13 and U-16 divisions.
The U-14 girls are actually competing in the U-16 bracket because they are too good for their age division, Garth said. His middle daughter, Casey, is on that team. For all practical purposes it has remained the same for roughly five years, enjoying enough success the girls had to move up age divisions in order to meet qualification standards.
"Our tournament doesn't accept top-level teams in the state," Garth said.
Or elite level players such as his oldest daughter, Nikki, a member of a Ft. Collins club team ranked No. 29 in the country. A similar situation prevented Steamboat from fielding an U-18 boys team. The number of incoming seniors isn't large and those that do compete play high-level club soccer in Denver and are ineligible.
Still, both Garth and Balvanz are expecting a successful tournament. Teams from as far away as Hawaii, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas are trekking to Steamboat to play soccer and vacation.
"The Steamboat tournament is fun, yet competitive," Balvanz said. "It's family-oriented and is a vacation for many of them. It costs a lot for people to come here so they make it worth their while."
The tournament will consume most of Steamboat's soccer fields Friday through Sunday. Balvanz said four fields would be used at Emerald Park, two at Whistler Park, two at the Ski Town fields, two at the high school, one at Colorado Mountain College and for the first time, two at Christian Heritage School.
Funds raised from prior Mountain Tournaments enabled the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association to write an $80,000 check to help construct the new soccer fields. Balvanz said, however, the work could not have been done without the large pool of volunteers that helped complete the project.
Volunteers also are relied upon to run Steamboat's Mountain Tournament. It is entirely operated by people willing to give their time.
The soccer community is large and the pool of local players interested in club soccer is growing.
Steamboat now has 10 to 12 teams ranging from recreational to premier levels, Balvanz said, and roughly 200 players from those teams will take to their home fields starting Friday.
Admission to all games is free.
"It's great because we always have to travel great distances to play," said Wade Miller, coach of the U-10 boys team.
"But this one is in our own backyard."
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