After a long winter hiatus, the wait was finally over for hundreds of kids who were anxious to get back to their favorite hobby - outdoor soccer.
The Kaw Valley Soccer Association opened its spring session this weekend at Youth Sports Inc. with about 70 teams from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas (14 teams from Lawrence) competing in the Kaw Valley Cup all-boys soccer tournament.
For many of the players, the three-day tournament marked their first soccer action outdoors since the fall season as many of them spent the past few months participating in futsal.
Under dark and cloudy skies many of the participants splashed through mud and water and slid for long distances on the wet grass after diving for a ball. One such player was 10-year-old Chaska Rocha of the 10-and-under KVSA Select.
Rocha has played soccer for a few years now and enjoyed finally having the chance to play outside again. He was also glad to see all the people at the event and was happy that his team finally played its first games of the season.
"It's kind of amazing how many kids there are out here," Rocha said. "We have a lot to learn, and we have lots of good players, a lot of tough players. A lot of leadership."
While Rocha's team was defeated handily by the Attack, KVSA Select coach Coy Weege said he was not all that disappointed with his team's performance.
"It's a learning experience because it's our first game," Weege said. "We got some work to do, but not bad by any means."
After the game, Weege told his team that for the next game he wanted them to all set the same goal: each player taking a shot and getting a chance to score a goal.
"Mainly, it gives them something to work for," Weege said. "It gives them a goal."
Weege also said that because of the round-robin bracket, his team would get to play at least four games, which is something he thought would prove to be beneficial as the season progressed.
"We get ample playing time," Weege said. "So we can develop them as a player."
Team Force coach Mauro Nobre said that having so many teams competing against each other was a good way for players to see where their skills are at and where they needed to improve.
And Nobre said that in the future he would like to have more than 100 teams competing at the event.
Nobre said that with the tough competition between the teams, any team that comes out of the bracket as the winner was most deserving.
"So many things have to go right," he said. "You have to be perfect every game."
And Nobre said that playing at such a high level over the course of a weekend was quite an accomplishment in itself.
"Playing five games in one weekend, it takes a lot out of you," he said. "It's a game of endurance. When you get fatigued you make mistakes, you break down mentally. So it's really quite an accomplishment of endurance, strength, willpower and skill to go all the way."