When temperatures go over 100 degrees in June, Arizona amateur athletes are only warming up for the annual Grand Canyon State Summer Games.
Patterned after the international Olympic Games and sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee through the National Congress of State Games, the summer games take amateur athletics out of the backyards and parks and showcase them in large and small arenas.
If it seems like the International Olympic Committee comes up with some strange events in the name of sports at the winter and summer games, consider tournaments this month in the bean bag toss, dodgeball and Whiffleball.
Of course there are more standard forms of competition in arm wrestling, badminton, baseball, basketball, softball, baton twirling, BMX bicycle racing, bowling, diving, four-on-four flag football and golf.
More traditional events include gymnastics, judo, karate, racquetball, shooting, swimming, squash, synchronized swimming and table tennis.
Spread around various venues in the Phoenix area are tennis, track and field, beach volleyball, weightlifting and wrestling.
“We have been very fortunate that we have been able to continually add support for amateur athletes,” Executive Director Erik Widmark said. “It has been a great place for athletes of all ages to showcase their talents and aspirations.”
Some of the games have already taken place, but a bulk of the competition begins today and goes through July 30. Another set of key dates for competition begins June 17 and goes through June 24. For a complete schedule, go to www.gcsg.org. The Games had some financial uncertainty before they were resurrected from a certain death, not to mention an $18,000 debt, in 1994 by Widmark, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident.
A former National Football League player, administrator, coach and father of three Mountain Pointe High School students, Widmark revisited his professional sports experience and set out to run the Games like it was an NFL franchise.
The Games not only survived, they grew and Widmark said the Grand Canyon State Summers Games had more athletes involved in Arizona than the Olympic Summer Games drew to China two years ago.
The organization also puts on the annual Lori Piestewa National Native American Games, the Grand Canyon State Winter Games and a national essay contest, which includes categories from kindergarten through adults. An art contest for kindergarten through adults is another non-athletic function of the organization.
Widmark encourages everyone to take a shot at competing in one event or another.
“We have had a 2-year-old come down the hill (skiing) in the winter games and a 99-year-old throw the javelin in the summer games,” he said. “This event is made for anyone and everyone.”