Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Playing at home is nice, but it's especially nice when you're the Steamboat Springs High School tennis team.
The regional tournament Friday and Saturday at The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs not only proved to be a great home-court advantage, but it also spoke to how the Sailors have remained dominant for so long.
On Saturday, the Steamboat boys team won its 11th straight regional title. On the girls side, the team has won five straight.
That's the product of a lot of things.
There are good players throughout. There are good coaches throughout. There are people who care about tennis throughout.
But maybe the biggest thing happens to be the Tennis Center itself. It houses youth programs, junior programs and the high school teams. It makes winter tennis - which a lot of teams can't play - possible. If you're a realist about things, you understand how important this is.
The dynamics of high school sports have changed. Rarely do you see an athlete who can excel in multiple sports. Nowadays, high school athletes usually have to choose one or two sports and stick to those. They can't just play them in-season, either. Sports are a year-round thing. Like it or not, that's the reality.
That's why the Tennis Center has become so important. All those lonely winter months allow the athletes to practice.
It's made Steamboat a dynasty in tennis. It's made it one of the premier programs in the state.
But that can be said about any team in the area with nice facilities. Look at Gardner Field and the teams that get to use it. Soccer, football and lacrosse all have been consistent winners.
Another example is Howelsen Ice Arena, where the high school hockey team has become a constant in the playoffs and where youth hockey might be the biggest thing going on outside of skiing in the winter.
These all are complexes that shape youths and the athletes of tomorrow. They not only make Steamboat Springs High School athletics highly competitive year-in and year-out, but they give the teams something to do.
But it's not a foreign concept. Great facilities usually produce great things. For instance, where are the best facilities in the Big 12?
Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Oklahoma State.
All those schools have the best facilities. It's no wonder they usually have the best athletics.
The facilities - like the Tennis Center - are partly what make Steamboat Springs so special.
Certainly they make the athletics better in this town and give children of all ages something to do.
The Tennis Center's versatility, viability and playability never were more evident than on Friday and Saturday.
The regional title was just the icing on the cake.
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com