Eagle County’s women’s soccer league a powerful community connector
Eagle Valley Community Foundation sponsors league to lessen financial barrier to participating
Eagle County’s first women’s soccer league has provided an outlet for local women to build friendships and have a day that is “just for us,” the league’s founder said Friday.
La Liga Women’s Soccer just wrapped up its fifth season, and Veyra Gamboa Varela said she is proud of what the ragtag league has become in the years since she and a few friends had the idea to start it back in 2017.
“We deserve us time, you know, like playing time, too,” she said. “The men’s league, they play all day. That league has been running for years and years, so it’s nice to have something for us.”
Prior to La Liga’s first season in the summer of 2017, the only option for women who wanted to play intramural soccer was the local co-ed team — an idea that felt intimidating and out of reach for many women, Gamboa Varela said.
“We wanted to play but we can’t compete in the co-ed leagues because we’re not teenagers anymore, you know?” she said.
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The local men’s league is a community staple with families and neighbors coming out with blankets and coolers to spend the afternoon watching the games. So why wasn’t there a women’s league?
Gamboa Varela and a few friends decided to take on the task of organizing a league. Some had doubts about how well it would come together, but that first season in 2017 drew around 120 local women of all ages, backgrounds and ability levels, she recalled.
“The first summer we had about 120 girls and they all ranged between 16 years old and 55 years old, so it was like really diverse and there was a lot of women that had never played at all,” she said.
Excitement around the league continued to build throughout the summer. It gave women a sense of community, friendship and an opportunity to have something that was simply their own. They too could bring their families to the games each week, instilling a sense of pride in the league and in themselves, Gamboa Varela said.
“Especially in the Hispanic culture, older women, like mid-40s, mid-30s, they really don’t have friends, you know, like to hang out. It’s just like family and work,” she said. “So, they’re excited to make friends and have their own time.”
As time went on, the costs associated with participating in the league increased from about $200 per team in the first season to $425 per team in 2020, Gamboa Varela said. This evens out to around $40 per player on top of any equipment or jerseys that may need to be acquired, which can add up quickly.
This made some women hesitant about continuing in the league, she said.
This season, the Eagle Valley Community Foundation (EVCF) decided to partially sponsor the league, kicking in $1,000 to cover the cost of renting the fields at Mountain Recreation’s sports complex in Eagle.
This sponsorship cut the costs in half for players, who then only had to cover the cost of paying referees as well as some maintenance and equipment fees, Gamboa Varela said.
“The Community Foundation is supportive of women, especially women of color, getting together and self-organizing and creating this healthy environment,” said Laura Hartman, the director of operations for the Eagle Valley Community Foundation.
Hartman played with Gamboa Varela on a team in the league this summer, a team they creatively named “Veyra’s Team,” she said.
Gamboa Varela also works with Eagle Valley Community Foundation as a community connector for the foundation’s food assistance project, The Community Market.
Hartman recalled the times before Gamboa Varela stepped up to start the league when she and a group of other women would drive all the way to Carbondale to participate in a women’s soccer league there.
“We have so many great recreational opportunities here and a lot of them can be kind of male-dominated traditionally or maybe don’t feel as accessible to women, especially women of color or people of color overall,” Hartman said.
“Having a women’s league just makes it more accessible,” she continued. “You don’t have to come with great skills, and you don’t have to be in great shape. It’s kind of a come-as-you-are league and everyone’s welcome, and we have a lot of fun.”
La Liga is now run by two other local women — Laura Waniuk and Lupita Rios — and the group is hoping to start an indoor league soon, Gamboa Varela said.
She encouraged anyone who is interested in joining or learning more about La Liga to visit their Facebook page at “La Liga Women’s Soccer.”
Email Kelli Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org