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Column: Durango girls soccer in tough spot with its location

Demons players have to juggle club and high school seasons at the same time
Sydney Ryan of Durango High School takes a shot against Grand Junction High School on April 5 at DHS. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Durango High School athletes have never had it easy. With Durango’s isolated location, the athletes miss a ton of school and are constantly traveling over five hours to get to away games.

This alone is a tough task for athletes to be away from school, family and friends for these extended trips into the Front Range.

But Durango girls soccer may have the worst situation of any Demons sport. Colorado is in the minority with girls soccer. Most states have girls soccer in the fall with the boys. Some of the warmer states even have girls soccer in the winter. In total, 33 states (including Washington D.C.) have girls soccer in the fall or the winter.

Bryce Kelly

One of those 33 states is New Mexico. Since New Mexico’s girls soccer season is in the fall, the club season in New Mexico is in the spring.

This creates an issue for Durango girls soccer players. Because of Durango’s proximity to New Mexico, Durango girls soccer players play club there in the spring since it has the best competition and therefore the girls can be seen by college scouts.

Durango girls soccer coach Melissa Halonen has experienced the struggle of creating a high school schedule that allows her players to compete in the big club events in New Mexico while getting the high school games in a reasonable schedule.

Halonen said she wants to support her players in playing club at a high level because that is the typical way players get scholarships or opportunities to play in college.

“There’s no other sports that I know of that play club at the same time that they play high school,” Halonen said. “In the Front Range, they also don’t have to deal with this because their teams play club in the fall and high school in the spring. But because of where we live and the club teams that our players can join at a higher level are in New Mexico, then we have to balance it all in one season.”

Durango senior forward Emery Miller credited Halonen with her communication on the schedules so there would be as few conflicts as possible.

Miller said her typical club season would start in November and end in June. She said having high school soccer in the fall would help solve a lot of problems with soccer and college recruitment.

Starting her sophomore year, Miller would travel down to Albuquerque twice a week for club. This conflicted with school, but she found a way to stay on top of her work.

“Sometimes it would help because it really kept me in shape,” Miller said about the physical toll of both schedules. “But sometimes, especially during high school season if we have a high school game on Thursday and Friday and then I have a club game on Saturday and Sunday, that can be really physically straining. I faced a few injuries due to that but it just makes you tougher, I guess.”

Halonen echoed Miller’s comments on the physical toll of both schedules and said soccer is not a sport meant to be played back-to-back and it’s very hard for players to recover enough to play at a high level.

The issue is there is no easy solution to this problem. The Front Range schools have the power and won’t change a system that is working for them. Halonen suggested possibly playing with the New Mexico teams and in a New Mexico league in the fall. But the logistics of that move seem challenging for a single sport.

Hopefully, some changes will be made to help Demons girls soccer players balance both schedules and to lower the risk of injury and burnout playing the sport they love.

Regardless, the Durango girls soccer team should be commended for a strong season despite the first-round loss. It’s unfair what the girls have to do, but parents and fans should recognize and be proud of the sometimes herculean effort these girls put in to be a true student-athlete.


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