John F. Russell: Fans make difference in 'Boat

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A steady, driving rain fell on Gardner Field as the Steamboat Springs girls lacrosse team warmed up for a rare home game Thursday evening.

The rain soaked the ground, which still showed the scars from last fall's state playoff football games. But that didn't seem to matter to the athletes as they warmed up.

Five minutes before the scheduled start, the metal bleachers were nearly empty. A few parents were starting to filter in, but it looked as though the game was not going to be a sell out.

I wasn't surprised.

It had been raining all day, and the wind that blew across the field was a chilly reminder that winter hasn't left the Yampa Valley completely. But the fans kept coming, and by the time the girls ran onto the field, the stands were almost filled.

I still wasn't surprised.

I know lacrosse is fairly new to Steamboat, and spectators don't fully understand the intricacies of the game -- especially the girls' version.

From the games I've attended this season, I get the feeling that most of the parents in the stands are still trying to learn the rules -- and there seems to be a lot of them. But that didn't stop them from showing up Thursday night in less-than-ideal conditions and supporting the Steamboat players.

In Steamboat, it doesn't seem to matter what the sport is or what the weather is -- a large group of parents is always there to support the team.

Like I said, I wasn't surprised.

Parents fill the stands, drive hundreds of miles to watch their kids play and even pay extra for sports that are not fully supported by the high school.

I see this support at my son's peewee soccer games, where parents provide the halftime snacks or step in as coaches.

I also see the support parents give their kids at just about every sporting event I cover, whether it's a mainstream sport such as football, or a lesser-known one such as girls lacrosse.

The role adults play in our community as high school sports fans can't be overlooked. They often are the core of the cheers coming from the stands, and they supply the shoulders to cry on after a heartbreaking loss.

In the spring, when most of the playing fields in Steamboat are covered with snow for the first half of the season, the parents will drive to Craig for home baseball and soccer games, and to the Front Range for pre-season practices.

I guess it should be surprising, but not in a community like Steamboat.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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