Saturday, September 24, 2022
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The spirit of the Whitefish Summer Games endures

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | September 21, 2022 1:00 AM

In a tournament where the real winners are determined by the amount of fun they had, everyone was a winner at the Whitefish Summer Games Soccer Tournament earlier this month. If you keep score the traditional way, local women won first and second while Spokane edged out the Whitefish men.

The Whitefish Summer Games started in 1981 as a way to extend the Whitefish tourist season beyond Labor Day. The event has died and been resurrected a few times over the years but soccer is the only sport to carry on continuously.

Events in the 2013 games included soccer, softball, basketball, beach volleyball, tennis, squash, hockey, lacrosse, billiards, poker, paddleboard races, table tennis, cowboy mounted shooting, skateboarding, horseshoes, shuffleboard, bocce ball, cribbage, darts, beer pong, bean bag tossing, roshambo, rugby and something called “butt golf.”

Thirty events and nearly 1000 competitors were expected for the 2014 games and by 2016, soccer was the only sport on the schedule.

The games resumed this month after the pandemic put them on hold for two years and the soccer players succeeded in keeping the original spirit of the games alive. Camaraderie and fun have always been the main goals of the Summer Games.

In the early years, the soccer tournament hosted teams like the Muffin Men from Cranbrook who would sing during the games and hang empty beer cans on the trees at the Grouse Mountain fields. There were naked penalty kicks and uniforms that defied good taste, to say the least.

Occasionally, players still break out in song, like the one melodiously rendered by Bluefish Captain Brenda Guzman pre-game on Saturday, to the tune of Do-Re-Mi.

“Dos E-quis, a kind of beer. Ray, a guy I drink beer with. Me, why sure I'll have a beer. Fa, a long way to the bar. So, I think I’ll have a beer. Tee, no thanks I’ll have a beer….”

On Sept. 10 and 11, four over-35 women's teams and five over-39.5 men's teams played at Smith Fields and once again enjoyed the sportsmanship and pure joy that the beautiful game of soccer fosters.

The Hoppers, a women’s team from Edmonton, planned to fly 15 players to the Games but their flight was canceled, some players dropped out and the remaining nine hopped into three vehicles and made the nearly nine-hour trip to Whitefish for the love of the game and of the tournament.

“The Hoppers are the most dedicated. They came all the way from Edmonton… in Canada!” exclaimed Guzman. “It’s another country!”

In keeping with the spirit of the weekend, the other teams loaned players to Edmonton so everyone could enjoy competitive matches.

Friends reunited, laughter rang out and beer flowed freely. Jello shots, high-fives and hugs were shared and an overarching, exuberant feeling that comes with teamwork and brilliant competition was devoured with relish.

Days later, the aching ankles and sore knees give way to sweet, grass-stained memories of another stellar weekend of the Whitefish Summer Games.

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The Whitefish men's soccer team at the Summer Games soccer tournament. (Photo provided)

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Event coordinator Brenda Guzman celebrates after the Summer Games soccer tournament. (Photo provided)

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