John F. Russell: Changing seasons, shifting gears
Steamboat Springs — It seems like just yesterday there was snow in my yard, the temperatures outside made a snowman want to put on a knit sweater, and we were in the grips of another Yampa Valley Winter.
As a long time local, I know that there is nothing guaranteed about springtime in Northern Colorado, but on the other hand, my daughter’s U13 girls soccer team is already two games into her spring season. So, I have to come to terms with the fact that spring has arrived in the Yampa Valley even if, at times, the weather outside doesn’t look like it.
But in today’s fast-paced world of youth sports, the games on the field are not always tied with the turn of the seasons outside. Teams in Steamboat have to be ready to go when the season opens — even if there are a limited number of hours available for them to practice.
It’s hard to image, but just a few years ago, there were no artificial turf fields in Steamboat Springs. Spring athletes had to wait for Mother Nature to remove the snow from the fields and the tracks before they could start preparing for the spring season. This results in high school track teams completing workouts in the hallways and on the hardwood floors of the gyms.
When the high school track team arrived at its first meet of the season it is almost a guarantee that none of the runners, jumpers or throwers had been on a field. Back then, the high school soccer team worked out in the gym when the weather outside didn’t cooperate. If it did, then they would normally kick the ball around a plowed parking lot somewhere in Steamboat.
Conditions were less than ideal, but somehow these athletes and their teams accomplished great things. By the state playoffs or when the state track meet rolled around, nearly all of the athletes had forgotten about the less-than-ideal conditions at the start of the season. They were more focused on a way to end the year on a high note.
I’m not sure I totally understood what the athletes before turf had to endure to reach their goals in Steamboat’s normally unforgiving spring. But now that my daughter is playing competitive soccer, I’m starting to understand.
Her team had one full practice before traveling to Fort Collins and the Denver area last week. That’s an hour and a half to run the rust off the winter, to elevate the speed of their game and to wake up muscles that haven’t been used, that much, since the snow started falling several months ago.
OK, I’ll admit this winter wasn’t that bad. I can count on two hands the number of times I had to blow the snow from my driveway, and the temperatures outside were quite pleasant on most winter days. There were no long stretches of freezing temperatures, and there may have been a few blizzards, but nothing those of us who have lived in Northwest Colorado couldn’t handle.
Sure, there may even be a few days left to carve turns down the face of Mount Werner, but for me, the time has come to shift gears and accept spring with open arms. That means spending my weekends traveling to Denver for my daughter’s away games, and waiting for the day the fields at Emerald are good enough for our team to host.
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Many people in the Yampa Valley make important decisions about everything from recreation to business plans based on the numbers for rain and snowfall, snow pack, cubic feet per second, wind speeds and temperatures.