MASC Historical Perspective
by Susan Cox
(The author and her husband, Bob Cox, are the founders of the Mars Area Soccer Club, published initially in 1993.)
In the fall of 1985, work was progressing on the Mars High Stadium behind the Middle School At the same time, both of our sons were playing in the Cranberry Soccer Club. Steve was an U-8 with one practice and a Saturday game, and Michael an U-10 with, two practices and a Sunday game. They enjoyed the game and we wondered if they would never have the chance to play soccer on a high school team. When we questioned the school authorities on the possibility of constructing the new field large enough to accommodate a regulation soccer field, we were advised that there would never be a high school soccer team without a community feeder program.
That answer, compounded with five trips a week to Cranberry (at the time we thought that was a lot of traveling for soccer - how little we knew!) caused, me to realize that a challenge had presented itself. It took some pleading to convince my husband, Bob, to agree to help me. I believe his words were something similar to ... "a little, but I'm not going to get too involved."
We began by talking to Mars Area people who had children playing soccer in the Cranberry, Richland, Connoquenessing, Knoch, and Butler Clubs. We enlisted the help of Sara Werlenich, the elementary principal, in having notices sent through the schools announcing an organizational meeting for all interested adults to be held at "the church across from the bank in Mars.
The meeting was held in early December and was attended by twelve people. It was decided to have a registration at the church on a Sunday in January. Before registration we continued to make contact with the Western Pennsylvania State Youth Soccer Association (now PA West) to get information on what we would need to start a club. We were also given names of people in ether local clubs who would be able to provide answers to some questions.
At the Sunday registration, fifty-two kids we registered between the ages of four and sixteen. Registration fee was $15.00 a player. Each player would receive a shirt, but had to supply his/her own socks, shin-guards and ball. At the close of registration that day it was decided that we had enough kids to "go for it" an, we elected the following officers:
President: Bob Cox (not too involved)
Vice Pres: Bob Thomas
Secretary: Alice Berkner
Treasurer: Margie Nicklas
Registrar: Bob (not too involved) and myself.
The next day we opened a bank account and called the state offices. We then found out in order to register our club, we had to have a set of by-laws, a licensed referee and a regulation size field for travel team play. Bob found out where a referee certification class would be held. He took the class and became our first (not too involved) referee. We borrowed Cranberry's by-laws and retyped them inserting Mars Area everywhere Cranberry appeared.
With that and $100.00 we were officially registered as the Mars Area Soccer Club and were given the club ID #088. This # still appears on a Mars Area player's ID.
Meanwhile, the phone at our house was constantly ringing with inquiries from people who "had just heard" about the new club and wanted to get their kids registered.
During this time Bob (not too involved) and I were negotiating with Mars Boro, Middlesex Township and the school district in order to secure areas for practice and games. We eventually played our games on Saturday mornings at the Adams Township School. Practices were held at the Mars Boro field, Middlesex field and at Adams and Middlesex schools. We used the front yard and the area between the parking lot and the trailer. The Mars Boro fie1d was our regulation field.
We had a call telling us of a shirt company on Rt. 19 near West View. We contacted Bob Lazor of Lazor and Company, who was very helpful and empathetic toward us as a new organization with very little money. He agreed to print and sell shirts for $2.10 each. At that time we had no logo, so their artist drew several and we chose the logo that we still use today.
One evening I got a phone can from a man who introduced himself as Tony Pellegrino, the owner of a new sports store in Butler that specialized in soccer equipment. He invited us to come up and meet him, which we did. His prices were lower than any others we had checked, so we began a long-standing policy of buying our equipment from Forza Sports. Of course, the first year we bought only balls (one for each team) and cones to mark corners. We used bicycle flags from K-Mart for goals.
By the time the season began, we had 135 kids registered. We did not have enough kids for U-6, U-S, etc., so we divided the kids according to school grades. Kids in kinder-garten, first, and second grades were on Primary (6 teams), in third, fourth, and fifth were intermediates (4 teams). All others (about 15 kids) were registered as a Bye U16 team. This happened because our oldest player was an U-16 and a team always has to play according to its oldest player. These boys and girls played other U-16 teams, usually on Saturday afternoons. They never won a game, but they had a great time.
Of course there were now 11 teams and no coaches. Bob (not too involved) spent many evenings on the phone convincing people that even though they didn't know anything about soccer, they could be a coach. He found out about a coaches' class being given in Butler, and took most of the new coaches to it several weeks before the season started. It was at this point that he had to insist to these new coaches that, even though they didn't understand much of what went on at that class, they could still be coaches. Because of the lack of licensed referees, coaches also served as referees for their first games!
In order to help generate some revenue, it was suggested by some that we sell concessions at each game. Our original concession stand sold hot dogs, candy and pop our of the back of Bob's (not too involved) pick up truck.
The day before our first game, we held "shirt day" - when all the kids wore their team shirts to school. This was a tradition that continued for many years prior to each season. The day of the first game was cold but sunny. It was the end of a long winter of work and planning and the beginning of a new era for the kids of the Mars Area.
It's hard to believe that seven years have passed since the inception of our club. Many things have happened along the way. The growth of the club and the opportunities for the kids have been rewarding, but the most personal reward Bob (not too involved) and I have received are the friendships of many people that we otherwise would probably never have had the opportunity to know.