Soccer in the Sand features two days of small-sided (five players per team, as opposed to the standard 11 players) beach soccer tournament played in the sand, with goalkeepers, aimed to create numerous shots on goal.
Featuring top local and national talent of an assortment of age groups, even leading up to professional beach soccer athletes, Soccer in the Sand guarantees that every team will play at least three games.
Not only will the players benefit from the atmosphere, Grand Haven at large should see a large influx of temporary residents throughout the weekend.
“We expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people coming into the city this weekend,” Soccer in the Sand owner Chris Lemay said. “The city of Grand Haven has so much to offer. People can come in and plan on bringing the entire family for a vacation. That’s what separates us from other soccer tournaments. We are about the family, and providing everyone a chance to be entertained and involved.”
Family has become the theme for Soccer in the Sand, and it's the same for the organization’s owner. Lemay has family in the area, and he enjoys the opportunity this weekend provides him to relax and enjoy loved ones.
“For me, it’s coming home (and) being with family,” he said. “Grand Haven has become one of our two flagship events (along with Oregon). Beach soccer has continued to develop its level of play and tactics, allowing the sport to grow consistently.
“We should have top competition across all age groups in this year’s event, making it a special weekend of soccer.”
Soccer in the Sand, Lemay said, originated right here in Grand Haven. Lemay, his brother and some of their friends would vacation here. They would bring a soccer ball down to the beach to kick it around a bit, and realized there could be a market for the sport. They were right, and quickly established one of the largest beach soccer organizations in the country.
“I grew up in Detroit and often went on vacations over on this side of the state,” Lemay said. “This is now Soccer in the Sand’s 12th year here in Grand Haven. The influx of people allows us a great opportunity to partner with local business and the local club team, Lakeshore Premier, who we share a percentage of the weekend’s revenue with.
“We strive to give kids, who might not otherwise get the opportunity to compete at the club level, an opportunity to play some meaningful soccer,” he added.
While the kids are important, Lemay understands that the top draws will be the professional teams. He singled out two top men’s teams, GLBS and FWBS, as two to watch this weekend.
“These two teams are really going to be entertaining,” Lemay said. “I really hope people come out and watch them. There are some national beach soccer team athletes competing this week.”
Whether it’s golf (Spring Lake Invitational Tournament), numerous volleyball tournaments or Soccer in the Sand, the Tri-Cities benefit greatly from summer athletics. Players, fans and family members turning sports into extended vacations will pour into the area over the next month, which can only be good for local businesses.
“We hope the city, local business owners and club teams appreciate that one of the largest beach soccer tournaments returns annually to Grand Haven,” Lemay said. “The tournament will have a positive impact throughout West Michigan, and the trip back will be very nostalgic for me.”