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History of Danville Soccer

Quick Links >>  > Woman's Soccer   > Fred Underhill's recollections   > Scott Drews's Recollections    > Mike Velleman's Recollections    > Jim DeBoer's recollections > Vince Koers's recollections

Soccer has deeper and wider roots and branches than one might imagine in east Central Illinois. This history is not comprehensive, but is rather a collection of memories, clippings, photos, and narratives told by the people who were there and made it happen. This section of our Website welcomes any submission from anyone with a story related to the formation of soccer here in the Danville area and throughout Vermilion County. Send your Microsoft Word submission to Adnan Abdelghani, email adnan@danvillesoccer.org.

Women's Soccer at Danville High School 1926

A great deal of enthusiasm has been shown among girls in the Physical Education Department at the introduction of a new activity. Over one hundred girls have signed up to participate in the recently introduced game of soccer, which will have its place in athletics… The game is played on the same size field and with the same number of players as football. The ball is never handled by any of the players except the goal-keeper.

The ball is passed with the feet and blocked by the legs and the body. The hands or arms at no time, may come in contact with the ball. Miss Eddy has explained the different passes, kicks, balls, fouls, and other necessary rules of the game.

These are practised in the gym on account of the weather making it impossible to use the athletic field. Maroon and White October 1, 1926.

Every one in the girl's gymnasium is talking about soccer. The first and second semester classes do not have the advantage of playing during class, as the others do, but it sees that that only stimulates the desire to come after school.

The Freshmen have had more girls out for soccer than any other class. Verdie Whitlock has proven herself the most valuable player on that team; she plays the wing position.

Miss Eddy is very much pleased this year with the change from just playing scramble to real soccer. Of course, we are by no means perfect yet, but last year, which was the first for soccer in Danville High, they were just a bunch of girls running, usually, from one side of the field to the other. This year the girls seem to hold their positions better than they did last. Maroon and White October 27, 1927.

GREAT INTEREST IN SOCCER SHOWN THIS YEAR BY GIRLS The tournament, which will be held November 13, 14, 15, and 16 will probably prove to be a crowning success of the eight weeks of hard practices.

Before a girl is eligible to play she must be making a passing grade in three subjects and be out for practice at least eight nights. Maroon and White November 2, 1928

SOCCER TOURNAMENT BEING PLANNED FOR P.E. 3 AND 4 The P.E. 3 and 4 classes are planning a soccer tournament. All the classes are divided into teams of eleven.

They are named after colleges. Some of the teams are Illinois, Yale, Harvard, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, and Purdue. The teams in each class play against each other twice a week, and the team which has won the most games at the end of the semester is eligible to play in the tournament. Some very good competition is promised because all the girls are determined for their team to win. Maroon and White October 27, 1930

GIRLS COME OUT EARLY FOR SOCCER PRACTICE EARLY THIS YEAR Girls' athletics started out with a bang this year, with soccer starting the first week. There were about ninety girls out and since Miss Anne Bonstein, the coach, could not handle them all together, class nights were organized, the Freshmen coming on Monday, Sophomores on Tuesday, and Juniors and Seniors on Thursday.

In other years individual technique has always been emphasized for two or three weeks, but this year team play and cooperation are to be stressed. After five weeks of practice, inter-class tournaments will be held for one week. Maroon and White October 3, 1932

GIRLS GO OUT AFTER SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP OCTOBER 26 Captains Avis Royalty, Mary McCann, Esther Lumbrick, and Mary E. Elan, of the Senior, Junior, Sophomore, and Freshman classes, respectively, will start a rampage for the soccer championship beginning tonight.

Previous to this year the teams have drawn and tournaments were held three nights, the third determining the championship, but this year, the tournaments will be in the form of a "Round Robin". The championship will be determined by the percentage basis. Maroon and White October 23, 1933


Fred Underhill's recollections of early Danville Soccer 1982 Written February 4, 2002

I thought I would give you some of my thoughts about the beginnings of Danville Soccer. My involvement began in about 1982. My son, Greg, was 7 years old then and was playing soccer at the YMCA. Several of the parents had kids playing soccer at the Y at that time, including Ken Meeker's son, Jeff, and Henry Coan's son, Matt. Several of us started talking about setting up our own soccer association. The YMCA was doing fine, but soccer was just one of their many programs and it was not a big emphasis. We thought we could concentrate on soccer and do a better job. Several of us started meeting to discuss it. This was probably in 1982 and the beginning of 1983. As I recall, we had several meetings in my office and we also had some meetings in Ken Meeker's office in Fairchild Street. Of course, at that time, we had no place to play, no uniforms, and no one knew much at all about soccer. We were starting from scratch. We needed volunteer coaches and referees. Over the next couple of years, we had several coaching clinics and referee clinics, and we passed out coaches' manuals, rulebooks, etc. I was one of those who knew nothing about soccer. I bought several soccer books and started to learn. I tried to stay one chapter ahead of the kids as I was learning. Over the next several years, several of us took referee training and became certified referees.

As I remember, we started around the fall of 1983 with a little less than 300 children playing. At that time, we had three age divisions: under 8, under 10, and under 12. I think we then started an under 14 team and then later an under 14 traveling team. I think Danville High School started in 1985. As I recall, some of the early players in the league were my son, Greg, Jeff Meeker, Matt Coan, Ryan Redenbaugh, Joe Meyer, Chris Griffin, Chad Grimes, Doug Matayo, Andy and Travis Schofield, and Ed Barney in Westville.

Dr. Tway at the VA was also very active early. He had some very elaborate plans about a soccer complex, which actually never got off the ground. Very early, several of us met with Dr. Pennington and the School Board regarding a soccer complex at the site where it is now located. We got some financial estimates, but we never finalized anything.

I think Ken Meeker was the original Board President in 1983 and 1984, and I was President as I recall in 1985 and 1986.

We officially incorporated Danville Soccer Association on February 2, 1984. The original Board of Directors were: myself, Ken Meeker, Scott Drews, Bob Swires, Dave Redenbaugh, Bruce Schofield, Rich Apocaca, Pat Carr, and Vince Koers.

After Danville High School started soccer, many of us were trying to get soccer started in the smaller county schools. I remember one time going to the Westville school board meeting with Jodi Barney trying to get them interested in starting soccer. Jodi was very active in the early days in Westville and so was Bob Clifford.

The early days of soccer were fun for me. I remember at least a couple of days each week in the night before soccer practice I would be at home with my soccer coaching books reading and trying to figure out learning drills for the nest day's practice. At that time, none of the parents knew anything about the rules, so it was a lit more fun coaching and refereeing. I think that has changed a lot, especially for the referees.

Those are my early memories of the program. Fred


Scott Drews Recollections of Early Beginnings of DSA 1982

In the early 1980's, Ken Meeker, a local attorney approached me about coaching in a new league. The main reason for this was that the YMCA was not very organized with their soccer program and didn't put much of the fees into the soccer program. This was very upsetting to a lot of the parents and us coaches. As I remember the exact year was 1982. Chris Griffin was 10 at the time and his dad believes that was the first year for DSA.

We had a meeting at Fred Underhill's office along with Henry Coan and a few others. Some of the early names would have been Mike Merlie, Mike Brown, Brenda Hoehn, Vince Koers and maybe a couple of others. We had hoped for 100 kids or so, I believe 280 signed up. We only had a couple of divisions and maybe 4 teams per division. There were no small-sided teams. We used 11 players on the field.

The field was located at Northeast [grade school]. Shortly a second smaller field was added. Then we added another full-size field at East Park [middle school]. Of course that's where DSA stayed until the Complex was built. Westville was the first area team [outside Danville] to compete with Ed Barney playing and his mother coaching.

About two years after the start of DSA, I formed a traveling team in the Central Illinois Soccer League and that was the eye opener for this community to the higher level of soccer play. Chris Griffin was on that team and even after getting our clock cleaned many times he kept with it through High School. He eventually was named to the All-state team. Another player, Travis Schofield followed in Chris' footsteps and played for me in CISL a couple of years later. This time, we learned how to play a little better and became respectable but not dominant. Travis also played for DHS and earned all-state honors. To this date those are the only two to do so in this area.

At one point Fred Pancoast and I looked at the area behind Quaker Oats and Heatcraft to build fields but never realized the dream due to the cost of earthmoving back there. Next, we approached the school district about the current location, but were not assured that if we built it, they wouldn't tear it down in the near future for a new high school. Well, the addition at DHS [of the fieldhouse] changed the districts thoughts about a new high school and I think you know the rest.

Picture day came about when Jan Anderson and myself decided we needed a fundraiser for the traveling team and took our own pictures and had copies made at Osco's. Pretty primitive Huh?


Mike Velleman's Recollections 1988-98

Mike Velleman was a dedicated, thoughtful, and enthusiastic DSA supporter and past president for 10 years in the late 1980's and into the late 1990's. The following excerpts are from an email response to a request for recollections and information regarding his role in Danville Soccer. He moved with his job at NACCO to Greenville, North Carolina. TH

Good to hear from you. My congratulations on tackling another DSA project to help the Association grow its influence on the soccer community in East Central Illinois. They do soccer big time down here...had their "Beast of the East" tourney last week with 70 teams for the East coast in all age groups. They scattered them all over town at four facilities, none as nice as your complex in Danville.

I am not quite sure what you were wanting from me, and I do advise that my scope of knowledge is confined to the 88-98 time frames. As you know, no one can do it all by themselves, and I was fortunate to have very capable co-workers help accomplish all the things that happened during my 10 year association. I will not cover details on the Complex and your involvement, as you are surely the expert there.

I referenced several newspaper articles to support some of the numbers and programs. John Harrell and Bob Castello were both sportswriters for the Commercial-News and huge supporters of the DSA. The Association has its roots back in the early 80's. Henry Coan and Scott Drews should be able to provide support for that time period. Steve Strader was associated with Jacob's (his son) early involvement as well. The following totals are what I have been able to arrive at; 1983-280 players, 1984-400 players. The league stayed at roughly the same total through 1992 when the DSA had 500 players. Starting in 1993 emphasis was placed on surrounding community involvement, girls league starting in 1995, under 6 teams in 1997 and traveling teams in all age groups. I remain convinced that when we started going to the more cost-effective uniforms in 1994, allowing the DSA to grow its bank account, we were able to upgrade the fields with new nets, corner flags, more soccer balls, etc. This started the Association's ability to attract more non-Danville teams, increase traveling team participation and grow the interest in the true soccer athletes. By 1998 the DSA had over 1,200 players. Mark Goodwin should be able to corroborate these numbers. Mark Janesky can verify the financials. Allen Mushett, Jeff McMorris and Gary Nelson were driving forces behind the (early) traveling teams.

Your involvement in the Winter Ave. complex is probably the crowning glory in the DSA history and you can be proud of your accomplishment in that area. I would like to see other articles as you gather all the information for your site. Keep me posted on the progress and I will contribute where I can. Best of luck Mike V...

A fun recollection about the beginnings of U6 soccer 1997
Thomas, I have a few recollections of what I thought was one of the most fun things DSA ever did. Jim Bladel and I hashed out the possibilities when we were driving over to Greenwood, IN for one of their big tournaments we were scheduled to referee in. Before the start of the Fall season 1997, we sent flyers out to every pre-school organization, School principle with kindergartens, baby sitting groups, and soccer players with younger siblings, to generate interest in forming an under 6 league. The success was outstanding, although you'd have to confirm with the secretary's archives on the exact number but it seems like we had 10 or 12 teams including two from Hoopeston and Catlin, Westville and Bismarck, one each, and 6-8 from Danville.

We pulled together an organizational meeting where I drafted coaches from those who showed up, gave them printed skills, exercise, tips to make them a little more dangerous. My big sell was holding one practice per week for all the in-town teams and any out of towners who could make it. A lot of the non-Danville coaches would come to the practice to watch then schedule their practices later to apply their newfound tactics. I also convinced then DHS coach Chris Durbin to allow his senior and junior soccer players to come over to be assistant coaches, group leaders, demonstrators, and admittedly, baby sitters. But it worked. We had 60-75 U6 wannabees running around Northeast school for an hour every Wednesday night. Coaches learned to organize, DHS players learned to instruct, and all kinds of kids got a positive exposure to soccer a couple years sooner than ever before. No score keeping, equal playing time for all players, and the littlest shirts I could buy so they looked good even if they didn't play that well. I scheduled my self to referee all the games on one field each Saturday form 9-12 and never enjoyed anything more.

Another thing Tim Jones and I spearheaded was the certification of Danville area coaches and players into the USSF. Tim put on several clinics each Fall for several years explain rules, offsides, crowd control to new coaches and players wanting to participate. This raised the level of officiating, provided more linesmen and officials for traveling team soccer and more choices for DSA regular season games.

I can't remember the year, but 1996 or 97 stands out as the year we had a tournament game on the U8 field for the age group championship. Regular time expired with no score, two overtimes, still no score. Rather than go to shoot-out with the kids wore out beyond tired, we gave first place medallions to both teams. Never saw so many grins on kids and parents alike confirming the decision as a good one.

Some of the city guys may be able to assist but we did have an adult league going for a few fall nights under the lights at the softball fields on Winter Ave before the new fields were ready. Is that still going on?

Good luck with your project. Keep me posted and in the loop regarding confirmation of events, information, etc. as best as I can remember. Thanks for the opportunity, Mike ...


Jim DeBoer's recollections of his early DSA days:

I came thru DSA sort of in the middle period, where there weren't any great memories. The issue that arose during my tenure had to do with getting some sort of standardized officiating, rather than just coaches and dads with only a hazy understanding of the rules, doing the games, and borrowing rules from other sports. This was sometimes amusing, such as referees giving the touchdown signal when a goal was scored, sometimes puzzling, as when a coach argued with the ref that a shot that was in the air when the half ended and subsequently went into the goal should still count as a goal (sorry, only in basketball), or more serious, as when off sides was equated with the hockey blue line, and once the attacking ball crossed the line of the second-to-last defender, the rest of the attackers could go wherever they wanted in the attacking zone. One championship was won when an attacker passed the ball forward to another standing on the goal line, ten feet behind the keeper.

This latter case prompted a few of us, first Tim Jones, and then Alan Mushett and me, to go get certified as IHSA refs, and try to set an example for others to follow. As I recall, no one followed, but the three of us were able to set the correct rules in games often enough to make the games more consistent. Jim


Recollections of Vince Koers regarding beginnings of DSA:

I heard that you were interested in the early years of the Danville Soccer Association, and I have prepared the following for you. Most of this was written for a reporter back in 1993, after the Commercial-News did a brief piece on DSA that was significantly misleading. I don't know if the C-N ever used it. Unfortunately, some folks that simply weren't around when it happened apparently are not aware of the real early origins of DSA. I realize that there can be different perspectives, but when it is going on in your living room, it is hard to be mistaken. The 1993 piece has been updated for your use now in October 2003.

I came to Danville in 1973, and became aware of soccer activities in Mid-1974 as my family joined me. The first name in soccer then was Peter Fortin, a forceful Argentina expatriate who was both working with getting the "Y" program established and promoting a soccer team at DACC. The mainstays of players at DACC were the Iranian and other Middle-Easterners that were such a large picture in the community at the time. Peter spoke fluent French, as did most of the young Arab men, and Peter was an instant hit and father figure to many of them. By the time Peter changed jobs and relocated to the Carolinas in the late 1970s, we had also formed an adult team and played several memorable games around the area. Another active member at this time was John Ayala, a former college soccer player and youth coach, and John and I formed a select traveling team and played several out-of town games in the late 1970s. Bob Rew was a strong financial supporter at the time, and I believe was John's CO-Coach at one time on the traveling teams.

In the Mid-1970's, Dr. Hmong Htwe (Tway) came to my attention as a leading soccer luminary in the Danville soccer scene. While not on the list of the 13 founding fathers of DSA, he was integral to Danville soccer activities in that period, and is my nomination as the father of Danville Soccer.

Hmong was a practicing surgeon at the Danville Veterans Medical Center at the time, and a former Olympian soccer contender for the Burmese National Soccer Team in his youth. Dr. Htwe was unstoppable in his enthusiasm for soccer in general, and Danville Soccer in particular. Long before anyone else had thought to do so, Hmong personally made presentations to both the Danville High School Board of Education and the Schlarman High School Board, trying to sell them on forming high school teams. When the DSA eventually split from the "Y," Hmong saw it as his duty to remain with the "Y" to insure they had someone to teach fundamentals, but he never stopped pushing soccer as a community-wide activity. Later, as Bohn Aluminum offered the land behind their facility for use as soccer fields, Hmong was a strong force trying to organize that effort. Later, he organized and chaired meetings at DACC to bring together many elements in Danville to push for a real community facility. One thing I am sure he did is to plant a seed within every one of us, to will us to point all of our arrows in that one direction, and to work toward a solution to the development of a community soccer facility, and to not hinder its coming forth in time. The Danville soccer community owes Dr. Hmong Htwe a hearty Hurrah!

I became involved with soccer in Danville in the middle 1970s, when the only game in town was "Y" league soccer. There were some problems inherent with this. The view the coaches saw was that their kids were paying steep fees for programs conducted out of doors, and were charged the same pay structure as indoor programs such as basketball, which depended on an expensive superstructure to exist. Further, it was common that the "Y" board would not approve a program such as fall soccer until less than 2 weeks before the first scheduled game, creating chaos for everyone involved. There was never money for nets, or goals, and each team was expected to flourish with one ball. The concept that each kid should have their own ball for use at practice astounded them!

In the fall of 1979 I was the parent coordinator with the "Y" program, trying to get funds in the community and to help the program flourish. At meeting after meeting, the coaching sentiment was that we should break away and form our own organization.

In late 1979, Ken Meeker, Mike Pimmel and I met and laid out an outline of an organization that could serve as an umbrella organization for soccer throughout the county, and still remain, at least temporarily, with the "Y." During this period, what we called the Parent's Soccer Assistance League was working actively to promote "Y" soccer.

In January and February 1980 Meeker, Pimmel and myself put together the organizational shell, and I functioned as the interim President of the fledgling Danville Soccer Association, doing business with a number of concerns in the name of DSA. We prepared much of the background needed to formally launch the organization. This situation persisted until Bob Rew was appointed interim Chairman of DSA by a committee of 13 founding individuals in the spring of 1980. Bob led the organization a few weeks until the first Board of Directors was installed in June 1980. On 11 June 1980, Mike Pimmel became the first elected President, I was Secretary, Bob Schwarz became Treasurer, and Graham Prentice Registrar. Ken Meeker was appointed Legal Counsel, and charged with legalizing the organization, as shown in minutes of the 11 June 1980 minutes.

From its inception in late 1979 through the fall of 1982 or 1983, DSA was primarily the operator of the "Y" soccer program, although we also ran several promotional programs and traveling team programs beyond the scope of the "Y" mission. In May 1981, I made my first of several soccer presentations to school boards at Schlarman High School. Others would later present to Danville High School, and to Westville High School. Once DSA was formally organized in June 1980, memberships were sold to all coaches, parents and interested individuals as a fundraising device for the group.

By the fall of 1982 the frustration level of dealing with unsolved and perhaps unsolvable problems reached its critical mass, and the decision was made to launch our own DSA teams in direct competition with the "Y." The ad taken out carefully showed the names of all the current DSA coaches, so each of their players couldn't miss that "their" coach was going with the new organization. DSA soccer was a success from the get-go. Yet even though there was direct competition with the "Y," DSA continued to provide coaching clinics and training for referees and side-linesmen for the "Y" program. DSA also helped with some incidental details of their program for several years after the split, fulfilling DSA's mission as an umbrella group promoting soccer throughout the county. Mike Pimmel was an energetic sparkplug whose every-waking moment seemed to involve soccer, and it was Danville's loss when a job change took him from Danville in mid-1982.

With the flowering of DSA into an organization handling large sums of money (as opposed to the "Y" filling that function) DSA moved to formalize and legalize their stature under Illinois law, and to restructure under the bylaws. Ken Meeker reconvened and reorganized the Board, 10 Jan 1984, which included both Meeker and I, and both of us, having retired from active coaching, became certified USSF referees.

By this time I was no longer secretary, and thus not the keeper of the minutes, and I am unsure of some of the detail, but by this time some of the newer old-timers had come on board, and they became part of the ebb and flow of the organization. Apparently some felt that DSA started over with their becoming part of the organization. DSA minutes reflect a lot of soccer-related activity going on in mid-1980 when some have said the organization floundered into inactivity. In truth, the activity of the group has ebbed and flowed with time. In the early 90's one of the original list of 13 founders of DSA once lamented to me that DSA has been taken over by base-ballers. There was some truth to the comment at the time. We had used to play a 16 game season, and our philosophy was to forget trying to manage interference problems with other sports - we were here to play soccer! By 1993, DSA was carefully crafting a shorter soccer season around the competitive needs of other sports. Is this bad? Only if it interferes with the local growth of soccer, and it seems that this has happened. But perhaps we ran out of soccer knights on white horses in Danville.> BACK




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