Steamboat Springs Dr. Jim Dudley is one of the original Steamboat Springs adult soccer league players.
He has been around since the creation of the formal, organized league nearly 20 years ago. He hasn't always been on the field because he didn't know how to play the sport when he first moved to Steamboat.
But he has consistently served as a sponsor. Sometimes his Steamboat Medical teams are good. Sometimes they aren't.
This is one of the good years.
On Thursday, Steamboat Medical defeated perennial power, Fat Eddy's, 2-1, using league veterans and high school players to remain undefeated at 4-0-1.
Dudley's team isn't the only team that boasts a roster of players from a variety of soccer backgrounds. While Steamboat has proven its commitment to developing young soccer talent, it seems remarkable that a town nestled in the Yampa Valley can repeatedly field a competitive coed league with more than 250 participants.
"Steamboat draws a lot of young, healthy people," Dudley said. "Soccer isn't a huge TV sport, but it is a game as a beginner you can have a good time with."
That hardly means the Steamboat adult coed league is only for recreational play.
The league, which holds games Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Ski Town fields or Heritage Field, ranges from beginning players to semi-professional players.
The games are competitive, the players are competitive and many in the league wouldn't want it any other way.
After moving to Steamboat from the San Francisco area last year, Kirsten Ryan is experiencing her first season of league soccer. As a member of the Steamboat Springs High School varsity soccer team, she is used to playing with and practicing against skilled players but she is thrilled her new hometown offers somewhere for her to continue playing during the summer.
When a Sailors assistant asked Ryan's mother if her daughter would be interested in joining Fat Eddy's, she passed the message along.
"I was like, 'Yeah, of course I want to play,'" Ryan said. "It's fun. Since I'm playing a whole game a lot of the time, it's good conditioning, too."
Rob Bohlmann, varsity coach for the high school boys and girls teams, didn't tell the players they needed to participate in the summer league, Ryan said.
Playing in the town league is something many prep players are opting to do on their own, exposing themselves to players and a level of soccer unequaled by many varsity opponents.
Chris Puckett, coach of the Alpine Howlers, also appreciates the caliber of play and the competitiveness of the coed league. His team is comprised of a number of Winter Sports Club coaches and athletes, among others, and Puckett encouraged some of his competitive Alpine ski racers to get out on the soccer field to get in shape and compete.
"The whole philosophy was to just get them out to play the game," Puckett said. "There's a lot of lateral work in soccer. Fast-twitch muscles are really developed and that's the biggest benefit for skiers."
Puckett also said there are other benefits in getting athletes who play individual sports into a team sport -- even if they aren't accomplished soccer players.
The Alpine Howlers picked up their first-ever win as a team July 1, defeating Mahogany Ridge, 3-1.
In its second year, the Alpine Howlers are blessed with gifted athletes that are either learning or remembering the importance of passing the ball downfield, Puckett said.
With five weeks left in the regular season before the single elimination playoff round, the 13 teams will continue to vie for the top eight spots and the right to continue play in the postseason.
Four teams -- Westside Auto/American Towing/Peak Fitness, Fat Eddy's, Creekside Cafe, and Steamboat Medical are all within two points of each other.
Four other teams -- Dental Center, Ptarmigan Inn/Chelsea's, Slopeside and Mahogany Ridge Growlers -- are within two points of each other, making the final five weeks of the regular season even more important.
"I moved to Steamboat almost four years ago, and I noticed Steamboat had plenty of soccer fields," said Jim Silva, captain of Westside Auto/American Towing/Peak Fitness. "To make the league popular, you have to have a place for players to play and Steamboat's been nice on that subject.
"The city does a great job with the league. The players are happy, the refs are happy. It's popular because everyone's been working hard to make it popular."