Back in the day when boys ran free, summer days were long and bikes took you everywhere you wanted to go, Hillwood Soccer Club was conceived. It began in 1969 with a robust group of 5th and 6th grade boys who somehow got it into their heads that they wanted to play soccer. The group of eleven boys, one German born coach, and a black and white ball, dubbed themselves the Hillwood Kickers, and a soccer league was born.
Up until that point, most soccer matches had been between ethnic teams such as the Czechs and Germans. That was all about to change as friends grouped together, found dad’s or neighbors to coach, and christened their teams with fighting names.
Their first season, the Kickers had no official uniforms. Much to every mother’s chagrin, the boys suited up in white tee shirts, matching white shorts and hit the turf. These were not the days of tiny black pellets collecting on the rug in the car; it was the height of luxury for the boys to play on actual grass. More often than not the Kickers found themselves on the Lower Woodland Park Fields, taking their spills on the cinder turf. Twin Ponds offered another alternative for the game, sand. But, the boys were tough, taking their falls and bearing their wounds with fortitude.
In 1972 stricter parameters came into youth soccer and teams became more age regulated. The new changes resulted in the Kickers being split into two groups. The 5th graders continued to play for the Kickers while the older boys began a new team, the Marauders. Although the boys were sad to be broken up, this was the true beginning of growth for Hillwood Soccer Club. As the years went by, the boys continued to play on separate teams until high school when they reunited under the quiet, gentle coaching of a man called Jumbo McClain.
Those early players have gone on with their lives. Some, like Kevin Bludoff still live in the area. Gregg Lill bought a winery and a few have remained close friends over the years. A couple players, such as Pat Noble, advanced in the sport until they reached the semi-pros. But for Pat, this level of intensity and competition stripped him of his earlier joy for the game. Eventually he took a break from soccer. Today, though, his love for the game is fully restored and he coaches his daughter’s select team while his younger son, Sean, plays for Northshore’s Rec club.
Who could have known in those early years, how popular youth soccer would become. Today, there are so many local teams, it’s difficult to find fields to play on. But thanks to one group of enthusiastic elementary school boys, we now have a thriving soccer club for boys and girls. This year Hillwood Soccer has 87 teams on the roster–all because a few boys followed their passion to take a risk and learn something new.
-Published in Hillwood Soccer Club’s Footnotes