Steamboat Springs This summer has been about a lot more than winning for local softball coach Chris Kuxhaus, who prefers to focus on building his players' confidence and skill levels while making sure they're having a good time.
All those goals came together recently for Kuxhaus and his Pirates Special Olympics softball team.
"It's amazing how much these guys have grown from last year," Kuxhaus said. "This is a chance to get out on the field and exercise, but it also teaches the players about team building, how to trust their peers and how to communicate off the field."
The team, which is made up of players from Routt and Moffat counties, recently returned from a Special Olympics softball tournament in Longmont with second-place medals.
"He always looks forward to it," Ann Sobeski said about her son Seth, who plays on the team. "He's been lost since it came to an end. Luckily, bowling is just around the corner."
Sobeski credits Leslie Bjorgum for starting the softball team four years ago.
"There were a number of individual sports offered, but I really wanted a team sport," Bjorgum said. "There was nothing in the summer, so we started the softball team."
The program runs eight to 10 weeks each summer. The players practice on Monday evenings, and they scrimmaged parents and other volunteers as the Longmont tournament drew closer.
"The tournament is what we've been building for all season," Kuxhaus said.
The program has been very popular in Steamboat and has started to gain some momentum in Moffat County.
He's hoping to add another team in the area so players can compete in a game format more often. He's been encouraged by the addition of a couple of players from Craig who played for the team in Longmont during the regional competition July 25.
"It would be great to play more games through the course of the summer," Kuxhaus said.
The games are great, but the moment the coach will remember this off-season came during a practice when every player on the team reached base safely.
"There were no strikeouts, and everybody on the team got to first base and was safe," Kuxhaus said. "I mean, there were a lot of special moments, but I think that's the one I'm going to remember."