Sports

Blast off kicks off

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Perry Woodford’s 3/4-ton pickup truck isn’t the most gas efficient vehicle on the highway.

But that doesn’t stop the director of the Federal Way Soccer Association from driving all over the Pacific Northwest chasing soccer-related events. In the last year, Woodford has put over 3,500 miles on his truck in pursuit of soccer.

“That’s the way it is,” he said. “It’s just kind of happened.”

Woodford took over as the director of the association nearly six years ago and currently oversees about 2,200 kids playing the sport in Federal Way. The association includes kids from elementary school all the way through senior high.

“We do this all to benefit the kids of Federal Way,” he said.

Woodford’s participation in the Federal Way Soccer Association and countless hours of work earned him the prestigious Volunteer of the Year award from the Washington State Youth Soccer Association recently.

A big part of that honor is due to Woodford’s countless hours of work with Federal Way’s annual Blast Off tournaments, which brings over 140 youth soccer teams to the city over two weekends. Woodford, along with his wife Sharon, are currently in the middle of the two-week Blast Off rush. The girls tournament ran smoothly last weekend and the boys take center stage Friday afternoon.

During this time of year, the Woodfords and the rest of the Federal Way Soccer Association Board of Directors, basically make their homes at Celebration Park — the headquarters of the Blast Off tournaments.

Woodford estimates he and “four to five other volunteers” will be at Celebration for over 40 hours this weekend alone preparing and running Blast Off.

“But I do get a free hot dog and Coke out of it.”

And that number doesn’t even include the 800-1,000 volunteer hours spent getting everything in order for the tournaments. Things like concessions, field rentals, referees, city permits, brackets, barbecues, overnight security and set-up and clean-up, just to name a few.

“It takes months to put together,” Woodford said. “It’s quite an effort.”

The Blast Off actually runs two separate tournaments. Last weekend, over 70 girls soccer teams flocked to Federal Way for their three-day run. And Friday, over 70 boys soccer teams, featuring players from 11 to 18 years old, will take their turn on 10 fields around the city.

But the tournament could be even bigger, Woodford said. The committee running Blast Off has formally turned away 43 teams because of a lack of field space. The tournament currently uses four fields at Celebration Park, where all the championship games are played, two fields at Saghalie Middle School, two at Sacajawea Middle School, one at Decatur and Karl Grosch Field at Steel Lake Park.

“(Federal Way’s) field situation is better than most areas in south King County,” he said. “But we still get pretty cramped to find homes.”

The association has been doing its part to build playable soccer fields in the city. During the last few years, the Federal Way Soccer Association has contributed $300,000 to install Field Turf at Sacajawea and Karl Grosch Field.

“We have had a pretty good relationship with the city,” Woodford said.

That relationship has led to the city of Federal Way only charging the association $400 per weekend during Blast Off to use their fields. The only other thing that requires payment during the tournament are the referees. A bill that equals out to about $21,000.

In total, after it’s all said and done Sunday afternoon, 292 soccer games will have been played during the boys and girls Blast Off festivities in Federal Way. The tournaments are used as the main fundraiser for the Federal Way Soccer Association. Woodford says the club hopes to make between $28,000-30,000 after all the bills are paid.

And that's the money that goes directly to the club from the $350 entry fee each team is required to pay to enter the tournament. That number doesn’t account for all the money spent at local businesses by players, coaches and parents, Woodford said.

“We have 32 teams, that I know of, who are staying in local hotels,” he said.

Several teams are registered from the Vancouver area, as well as east of the mountains and Canada.

One big reason for the Blast Off tournaments popularity is the way the teams are placed in skill-level brackets. The Federal Way Soccer Association uses four-team sub-groups at each age, in an attempt to have teams of similar abilities compete against each other.

“We try to keep it as evenly matched as possible,” Woodford said. “We have had some very positive comments about our bracketing. After we make out the brackets we send them out to the coaches for their feedback and they have three days to respond and then we make adjustments. But we still have some teams that slip through the cracks.”

But it’s not because of a lack of work on Woodford’s end.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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