The Okoboji Soccer Tournament was born from two loves of an Omaha man. As a boy in 1948, Jim Morrison spent time vacationing in the Okoboji area with his parents. He never forgot its beauty. Jim liked the area so much that he convinced his wife, Mary, and close friends, Bob and Mary Jo Ellis, to buy homes there in 1970. Okoboji was a very relaxing place to be and not far from Omaha.

Soccer was a new sport that burst onto the scene in the United States in the mid 1970’s. The Morrison and Ellis families had always been avid sports fans, and they were intrigued with this new kid friendly sport that was growing rapidly in Omaha in 1977.

In the summer of 1977 Mary Morrison and Bob and Mary Jo Ellis had an opportunity to see the soccer great “Pele” on his farewell tour in St. Louis’ Busch stadium. It was amazing to be among the 32,065 fans that attended the game between the New York Cosmos and St. Louis Stars. They quickly recognized the potential of the sport growing in popularity.

Upon their return from the trip to St. Louis, the couples decided to take a long relaxing weekend trip to Okoboji. While there, they talked about seeing “Pele” and the tremendous potential soccer had for kids. They wondered if there was a possibility of introducing this great new sport to the area by sponsoring a youth soccer tournament.

Jim and Bob approached local businessman Herman Richter of “The Three Sons” with the idea of hosting a youth soccer tournament in Okoboji. Herman was ecstatic with the idea and quickly saw the potential for drawing families to the area and making Okoboji a vacation destination. Jim, Bob and Herman worked closely together to make the tournament a reality in the summer of 1978.

The first University of Okoboji youth soccer tournament was held June 7-8, 1978 on the grounds of Okoboji High School. There were teams from Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska in the first tournament. St. Roberts dominated the tournament winning three of four championship games.

From the tournaments humble beginnings of 16 teams and 2x4s used for goals has now blossomed into the area’s premier recreational tournament. The tournament now boasts an annual attendance of 50 teams. Tournament leadership has changed hands a couple times throughout its history, with St. James/Elizabeth Ann currently managing the annual tournament. The tournament strives to honor and share Jim’s love of the Okoboji area and sports.

We would like to recognize and thank the Morrison, Ellis, and Richter families for their vision of the tournament and dedication to youth athletics. Because of them, thousands of youth have been able to look forward to spending time with their families in Okoboji and having fun competing in the tournament!

Author: Chris Blaylock – 2011 Tournament Director