Monday, August 3, 2015

A Weekend of Soccer in Vail, Colorado

Vail, CO

Did you ever notice that all mountain towns are long and skinny? Funny how that happens. Whenever we visit our son in Denver, we always have some kind of adventure into the Rocky Mountains. This time it was a weekend soccer tournament in Vail, Colorado.

I think of "Vail" as the umbrella name for the world famous winter ski area that encompasses several towns strung along I-70 in the Arapaho National Forest about 100 miles west of Denver, CO. These include Vail, Frisco, Silverthorne, Keystone, and Dillon to name a few. This was our first visit to the area. It is beautiful now in the summer and I can imagine what it must look like in the snow of winter. Our home for this weekend was a condo in Keystone graciously provided by long time friends Gail McGovney and Jodi and Tyler Sewell. Our special thanks to them for their hospitality.

In 1978, I bought a soccer ball for my kids. I had no idea what I was starting. Both my kids played the game. Amy (our daughter–in–law) played the game through college. My three grandsons (10,8,6) play the game. There are more soccer balls around their house than I can count. They are season ticket holders for the Colorado Rapids MLS team. They watch every game and the three boys know all the players and their stats. The word "fan" comes from the word "fanatic". These folks put the "atic" back in the word. It blows me away.

When Adam graduated high school in 1995, Michelle and I broke lock with soccer and watched it develop from a distance with only mild interest. That was 20 years ago and my how the sport has changed in those years. I doubt there are any kids reading this blog, so it will probably stretch your mind as it did mine.

This weekend I thought I was on a different planet. First off, this sport has become a fashion industry. No more white and black pentagon soccer balls. Now the colors and patterns are wild beyond imagination. As are the shoes, socks, and uniforms. I thought about the movie Back to the Future and mused about what it would be like for my grandson to go back 20 years and walk onto the field where his Mom and Dad played dressed in today's soccer garb. Would the reaction be stunned silence or would he be laughed off the field?

Then I was introduced to "Kick It 3v3" – an organization (and game) celebrating their 25th anniversary. Andrew and Joshua, our two oldest grandsons, played this weekend in the World Championships in Vail, CO. They each played multiple games on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I'll describe this the best I can by blatantly stealing from their promotional material and referring you to their website.
Kick It is celebrating 25 years as the largest national grassroots soccer tour in the U.S., providing over 5 million kids and families with a fun, safe, healthy, experience. The game concept for 3v3 is: no goalies, high-scoring, fast movement, each player touches the ball constantly and learns the 3-player game. This concept helps each player move to the full-sided 11v11 game with confidence and skill. Using a small field and maximizing player touches, 3v3 teaches players the game of soccer within the game of soccer. Players leave each 3v3 session with a passion to learn more and play more.

Small teams—3-6 players per team, no certified coach necessary, families welcome, no club affiliation needed, quick starts with kick-ins, quick substitutions, lots of playing time. 3v3 soccer will create more touches per player, learn spacing / supporting shape, win 1v1 battles using support & balance from teammates, develop more confidence in attacking & defending, increase ball possession & build confidence in controlling the ball in tight spaces, enhance players’ speed of play, field vision, and field awareness. Games are 25 minutes long (two 12.5 minute halves) Kick It 3v3

This tournament was held at Ford Field in Vail (GPS: 39.640418, -106.365466) which is part of Ford Park. While searching Google for pictures of Ford field, I found a lot of Lacrosse photos. I guess the field is a favorite for Lacrosse tournaments as well.

Ford Park is home to Betty Ford Alpine Gardens (GPS: 39.639774, -106.364822) a botanical center with a wide variety of flowers and plants plus docent tours and children's programs.

The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens are the world's highest botanical garden, located in Vail, Colorado, USA, at an 8,200 feet altitude in the Rocky Mountains. The Gardens are open to the public daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The Gardens were founded by Vail and Denver horticulturists in 1985, with subsequent planting of the Alpine Display Garden (1987), Mountain Perennial Garden (1989), Mountain Meditation Garden (1991), and the Alpine Rock Garden (1999) with its stunning 120-foot waterfall. Other gardens include the Children's Garden and Schoolhouse Garden. Together these gardens contain about 2,000 varieties of plants, including over 500 different varieties of wildflowers and alpine plants. Wikipedia
Several pictures of
The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens

Amy, Andrew, and Joshua went to Vail on Friday morning because the boys had Friday games. Michelle, Adam, Benjamin, and I made the trip at a more leisure pace on Saturday morning. A short distance out of Denver we were in the mountains and the views were spectacular for most of the drive.

We got there in time to see all four games (two each – Andrew and Joshua).

This is what a Kick It 3v3 Soccer Tournament looks like

I have an App on my phone that shows Munzees in the area. (What has that got to do with anything!!). The app showed a Munzee located in the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. So during a lull between games Joshua and I went on a Munzee search. No luck. The recorded coordinates were way off. We did get to walk through the garden which didn't interest Josh at all. So much for that attempt at bonding.

Bright sun and high altitude took their toll and by the end of the day we were whipped. But not so whipped that we couldn't stop for a great dinner at Dillon Dam Brewery in Dillon, CO (GPS: 39.627561, -106.060349).

We headed back to the condo. Adults wanted to go to bed but the boys were recharged by their dinner so some time in the pool was needed to wind them down again.

Sunday was bright and clear. Another great day for soccer at Ford Park. Both boys played in two more games. The final result was that Andrew's team finished third in his age group and Joshua's team finished fourth in his. A good time was had by all.

Most people piled into their cars and headed back to Denver creating the typical Sunday evening traffic jam. We elected to stay another night and travel on Monday morning. So we had time for another excellent dinner – this time at Ollie's Pub & Grub in Frisco.

A good dinner, more pool time, a good night's sleep, and head home Monday morning. Another adventure in the books.
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