By Stephen McKay
Sports Writer 

Local soccer league provides chance to compete for all ages


Stephen McKay

Calder Rosdail, left, competes for possession during his team's game against a Sterling, Colo., team in Sidney on Thursday night.

While the Sidney Soccer League provides an opportunity to get one's competitive juices flowing, there are a lot of reasons local fans of the ancient sport love to get out and play.

With a mixture of youth and maturity, boys and girls, women and men, the league just opened the second week of its season at the Sidney soccer fields Thursday night. The seven-team league has two teams from Sidney, four from Sterling, Colo., and another from Alliance. They play a seven-week schedule with a two-week postseason.

For the record, the teams from Sidney split their games on Thursday night. Redemption United beat a group from Sterling 10-2, while Geezers United lost a close one to Alliance, 6-5. Meanwhile, there were two other games being played in Sterling with one team getting a bye.

For Scott Mines, who has played in the league since its inception, soccer has been a passion most of his life. He plays with Redemption United.

"I get to play with my friends, it's comraderie, it's fun, it's a sport I love to do, it helps me stay in shape and it's a sport that allows you to be creative," Mines said. "Hopefully, I'll still be playing when I'm 70."

Mines began coaching his son when he was a 6-year-old in a Cheyenne County Community Center league. Mines' son is now four years out of college and still loves the game.

And for anyone who is 70 with still a desire to play soccer, there would be a place for you in the SSL. While the teams are largely set, league director Keith Grunig says there still may be room for a few more stragglers to enter the league.

The league is open to anyone as young as a freshman in high school to senior citizens. The league has a Facebook page through which you can contact Grunig or leave comments.

"I came here about nine years ago from northern Utah and I immediately began looking for a place to play soccer and this is where I wound up," said Grunig, who plays for Geezers United. "I love running and staying active. And, you know, when soccer is done well, it's really kind of artful with a lot of fluid motion. It's a beautiful game."

The league was originally started by Hunter Arterburn when he was in high school.

From the Sidney Soccer League eventually sprang the Blackhawks, a spring league that introduces the game to Sidney youth. Mines formed the Blackhawks with his wife Tina, both of whom have been coaching the game for decades.

Junior Balandran, who just finished his freshman year at Sidney High School, had his passion for soccer stoked by his experiences with the Blackhawks.

"I got recruited by Tina (Mines) who was coaching the middle school Blackhawks. But I've been playing soccer since I was a little kid," Balandran said. "Soccer is really intense, I just love it. It can beat you up quite a bit and there's a ton of running which is all good by me."

Though it's a league that counts wins and losses and advances the top four teams to a postseason, the competitveness of the league is pretty low key.

"It's fairly competitive, but we try and keep it at not too high a level to make sure we all keep cool heads," Grunig said. "There's a lot of talented players from around this area, but afterall it's co-ed and the players represent a pretty broad age group."

Besdies the SSL, many of the more passionate fans of soccer can be seen at the Sidney soccer fields just after dawn twice a week. While the twice weekly get together serves as a practice tool for those in the league, it's also a way for anyone with a desire to play soccer to have a place to go.

"We play Monday and Wednesday's at 5:30 in the moring and go to about 6:30 or 6:45 or however long we feel like playing," Grunig said. "Anybody is welcome to come and we'll base the size of our field based on the number of players who show up."

Besdies giving those with a passion for soccer a place to play, the SSL has an eye towards exposing the game to as many as possible - especially the Sidney youth.

"The area doesn't know a whole lot about soccer, so (the SSL) is a great opportunity to learn about it and get the kids excited," Grunig said. "Every piece of money we get goes back into the program and goes into investing in these kids. Soccer is growing in America and we want to bring it here, get people excited about it and get people to play."


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