Volunteers make Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament work | SteamboatToday.com

Volunteers make Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament work

Steamboat Springs midfielder Sydney Graham moves the ball up the field during the Steamboat U14 Navy's Game against Rock Springs on Friday. Steamboat lost a heartbreaker falling to Rock Springs 1-0. The game was part of the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament, which opened play Thursday and will continue through Sunday.
John F. Russell

— It’s been a busy week for Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament volunteer Ray Martinez, and things are not going to slow down until long after the last champion is crowned Sunday afternoon.

He has spent the past several months preparing for this week and has already dedicated countless hours this week making sure the tournament runs as smoothly as possible. For that to happen, Martinez needs to coordinate hundreds of volunteers, and he’ll spend the next couple of days doing his best to recruit a few more for the final day.

“We are at about 90 percent right now,” Martinez said. “I need 37 for Sunday, and I only have about 24 right now,”

Martinez said the success of the locally run tournament really comes down to the volunteers who give up a part of their weekend to help support the Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association. Proceeds from the tournament are used to reduce fees for the 800 local athletes who take part in youth soccer programs in the spring and fall.

Many of this weekend’s volunteers are parents of competitive players who have come out to fulfill this work deposit requirement. But there are more than a few, including Martinez, who work far more hours than are required just to make sure the annual event goes off without a hitch.

“It’s easy because I do it for the kids,” Martinez said.

Well in his case, he does it for his 11-year-old daughter Darby Joy Martinez, who is currently playing on the U12 Navy team.

“I do it because I love my daughter. I want her to look back and say, ‘My Papa was always there to help out,’” Martinez said. “Plus is is a great event, and it’s the highlight of the summer for many of these soccer players. That makes the time I volunteer worth it for me.”

Martinez’s efforts have earned him the nickname Papa Ray among Darby’s team, and she recently gave him a bumper sticker that lets everybody know that he’s “Soccer Papa” complete with flames.

Jackie Brown doesn’t have a child playing in this weekend’s tournament, she actually doesn’t know a lot about the event, but as a Rotary Club member and a Partners of Routt County volunteer, she understands the importance of giving back.

“I think it’s really hard to find volunteers in Steamboat Springs, and I don’t think it matters if it is summer or winter,” Brown said.

Brown said she has planned a lot of events in Steamboat Springs and understands how hard it is to get people to come forward and give their time. She said when Martinez came to her looking for volunteers, she wanted to help.

“I don’t really know what I get out of volunteering other than I think that it is important to give back,” Brown said. “I’m looking forward to getting out this weekend, to meeting some new people and having a chance to interact.”

There is no question that putting on an event the size of the Steamboat Mountain Soccer Tournament is a challenge.

This year, the tournament grew to 154 teams from 140 last year, and there is still a long list of teams that wanted to come play but didn’t make the cut. Martinez is thrilled about the growth, but also realizes it means finding more volunteers. He needed 34 more people to help run the event.

He also knows volunteers are the backbone of the Steamboat Mountain Tournament and they fill important roles such as helping register teams the night the tournament begins to running the concession stands throughout the event.

But Martinez said the organizers of the tournament never lose sight of what’s important. They work with parents to find shifts that don’t conflict with their children’s games, and the tournament works hard to make sure that every shift is covered.

Martinez said he is still looking for volunteers to help out this weekend, especially on Sunday.

“It’s really hard to find people willing to work on Sunday,” Martinez said.

He’s currently looking for people to run concession stands, take group photographs of the first- and second-place teams following the championship games and help tear down at the end of the tournament.

Martinez can be reached on his cell phone at 970-846-8706 or by email at paparay66@gmail.com. Martinez said that people interested in volunteering can also text the word volunteer and their name to his mobile phone, and he will get back to them as soon as he has a free moment.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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