HAMMOND | There are athletes who are students, and students who are athletes.
Ivan Vargas identifies with the latter.
"I guess I was alright as a player ... nothing special," said Vargas, who played soccer at Morton. "Yeah, it would have been nice to play in college, but I really wasn't at that level. Soccer was a sport I just loved playing while growing up.
"I was more focused on academics to get into college."
Vargas was focused enough to gain acceptance into Notre Dame. Hammond's College Bound programs, which helps qualified city students with their tuition in return for community service, assisted Vargas with his scholarship.
While he was enrolled with the program, Vargas came up with the idea of the Mayor's Cup 3v3 Soccer Tournament.
"It was something I was thinking about doing anyway," Vargas said. "When I got (Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott's) backing, that's when I thought I can use the working putting it together toward my College Bound service."
Now on the verge of attaining his Ph.D. in clinical psychology as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Vargas is organizing his eighth Mayor's Cup, which takes place July 25-26 at the Hessville Soccer Complex -- the cup's home since 2012.
"Last year we had about 120 teams," Vargas said of the tournament that caters to four-person boys and girls teams with age-groups ranging from U8 to adult. "That's been a steady number for us for the last few years, and that's about what we like for the space we have here."
Since 2011, the Mayor's Cup has served as a qualifier for the 3v3 Live National Championships.
Proceeds from this year's tournament will go to the newly minted Hammond Soccer Student Athlete Award, which will go to one or two prep soccer players from the city.
"The award will pay entry for the 2016 Future 500 ID Camp," Vargas said of the week-long college recruiting camp -- this year's camp is being held at Eastern University (boys) and Cabrini College (girls) in St. Davids, Pa.
"They move it around from year to year, but it's always held at a college campus," Vargas said. "They'll have professional trainers and coaches from 50 of the top colleges in the nation in attendance.
"It's a great opportunity for those who want to play in college, or maybe someday play professionally."
Application forms for the award, which will be taken until Dec. 1, 2015, can be downloaded from the cup's website -- www.hammondmayorscup.org. Eligibility criteria includes Hammond residents who will be sophomores and juniors for the 2015-2016 school year, and at least a 3.0 grade-point-average.
Recipients will be announced next March.
The Mayor's Cup has emerged as one of the city's big community events of the summer, but it does tend to attract a few overzealous soccer moms (and dads), and perhaps even fewer disgruntled players who are a step or two slower than they think they are.
Good to have a psychology degree to troubleshoot the drama these people tend to conjure up.
"Really, I don't know if my studies help me with this or if it's the other way around," Vargas said. "I know when I had to put clinical study groups together, having the experience of putting together and running soccer tournaments seems to better prepare me for it."