Bill Sawer stands in front of his self-built log cabin on the west side of Craig. "Soccer Bill" has lived in the Yampa Valley for over 40 years and has been a major part of the skiing and soccer communities in Steamboat and Craig.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Bill Sawer stands in front of his self-built log cabin on the west side of Craig. "Soccer Bill" has lived in the Yampa Valley for over 40 years and has been a major part of the skiing and soccer communities in Steamboat and Craig.

Soccer Bill Sawer followed his interests to Steamboat, Craig

Known for his soccer fields and independent lifestyle, Bill Sawer is a recognizable face in the Craig sports scene, especially when it comes to the sport where hands aren’t allowed.

Sawer has been a staple at the Loudy-Simpson Woodbury soccer fields, watching games for years, along with offering game times and teaching anyone looking to learn the game he loves at his personal soccer fields on the western side of Craig. But “Soccer Bill” has lived more than a full life outside of the Yampa Valley, too.

Perhaps most amazing about the man whose nickname starts with “soccer” is the fact that the sport wasn’t even a small part of his life until he was well into adulthood.

Sawer grew up in a small ski area of Michigan and knew he wanted to keep the skis on his feet well into life.

“I knew it was my niche,” he said of skiing as a child and teenager. “My father really disagreed with it at the time. Moving to ski instead of a career wasn’t the kind of thing you did.”

He joined the military in 1961 to save up some money and was able to move to Aspen when his military stint ended in 1966. There, Sawer skied every day and got by on his savings and small jobs for a couple years.

Before long, though, Aspen became too expensive on his salary and he began looking for a move.

“I had come to Steamboat for Winter Carnival and I really liked the area and liked the mountain,” he said. “I could see it hadn’t really been discovered yet, so I came. Steamboat treated me really well.”

It was during his time in Steamboat that soccer finally came into Sawer’s life, at age 27. Having never played, he got interested in a traveling men’s team in Steamboat and began playing goalie for them.

“My interests were changing,” he said. “The more time I spent on the soccer field, skiing became secondary.”

But he wanted to improve at the game, so he sought out opportunities to study and play elsewhere. For several years, Sawer played with the Steamboat team in the summer and then traveled to play during the winter. That took him to England in 1979, and Jamaica and Mexico after that.

In learning soccer outside the U.S. where the sport is king, Sawer increased his skill and became a huge fan. He attended four World Cups in Spain, Mexico, Italy and Los Angeles from 1982 through 1994.

“It was a great,” he says of the experience now. “It was a magical time. I feel really fortunate to have had those opportunities.”

In the meantime, Sawer started a youth soccer program in Steamboat and began the teaching phase of his life. He has spent time as a skiing instructor (and still does work with handicapped learning to ski in Steamboat), soccer coach at Colorado Mountain College and groundskeeper there as well.

The experience as groundskeeper showed him he could maintain fields of his own, which became a reality when Sawer purchased 30 acres in Craig in 1993. He built four fields and a smaller sand field and hosts games and practice sessions for anyone who wants to learn now.

“I give it to the kids or anybody who wants to learn,” he said. “It’s not available if I don’t do it.”

Sawer said he is busier now than before he retired, but he’s busy with only the things he loves: soccer and skiing.

“I’m doing what I want to do and I think that’s so important,” he said. “It’s a long life to live for the weekend. I plan to keep on skiing and would love to coach a couple thousand more (kids) if I have the time. This is my last stop.”

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com.

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