Friday, November 07, 2008

Just A Little Bragging, Soccer-Wise

All four of us older siblings played soccer at some time in our lives, mostly in elementary school (Shrine of the Little Flower) for the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) leagues. I wish I still had an optical scanner so I could show you my CYO 8-10 team. Despite the name, Little Flower teams had a fearsome reputation in those leagues, and many local, collegiate, and even national soccer stars came from Little Flower. Alas, Little Flower is no more. I would go on to serve as manager of Loyola High's soccer team that upset a superior Gilman side in 1981 for the championship (thank you, Fr. (now Mr.) Tom Koliss, Pat Regan and Robby Watson, wherever you are!).

Of course, our parents attended our games and most of our practices, for which I thank them. Beyond them, we can credit our time in soccer to two men, and this is the real point of my post.

The first was a fellow named Vernon Reese. He started the CYO leagues in Baltimore in the early 1950s, and they grew to over 160 teams at one point. He was my optician, and until just a couple years ago, his son was my optometrist.

Gene Ringsdorf was the other man. An avid soccer player, he also was an effective organizer of leagues not only in Baltimore, but throughout the country as a member and eventual president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. If you or your kids played high school soccer, Gene Ringsdorf laid a lot of the groundwork for you. He also helped establish the North American Soccer League, the first attempt at a national soccer league in the U.S. He was also a representative to the international soccer organization FIFA. And well into his eighties, he was still helping as an administrator for amateur leagues in Baltimore. As a sidebar, he was ative in the Holy Name Society and the Knights of Columbus, and had the honor of receiving the Eucharist from Pope John Paul the Great at Camden Yards in 1995.

Just over five years ago, Gene Ringsdorf died at age 91. He was my last living grandparent. God rest his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed.

Both Gene Ringsdorf and Vernon Reese are in the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY, a short drive from some other HoF in Cooperstown that I've heard about.

As for me, I wouldn't mind being a soccer referee someday. I just need to get the offside rule down.


C. said...

Actually, you just might mind being a ref someday. My nephew and brother were refs, they got tired of dealing with the parents mostly but also the coaches that had no clue of what sportsmanship was all about. They ref all levels and got tired of the abuse. Admittedly, this was in the D.C. area but after many years they had enough and stopped.