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Club History

The history of Cheshire Soccer Club is grounded in passion for soccer and for player development, hard work, and a lot of joy!  

1970s: The pioneers

The club was founded in 1972 by Fritz Radich, a 34-year-old immigrant from Hungary and an avid fan of soccer - at a time when soccer was an absolute outlier in the US sports landscape. Fritz’ goal was to enable high school soccer players to play during the spring and summer months, when the high school season was over. They would play against the few local towns that had already established soccer teams, like Guilford, North Haven, and Wallingford.

The club started with only one team: a U19 Boys team. This was complemented in 1975-1976 by a U16 Boys team, put together by two high school friends who wanted to play more of their favorite game: Sunil Gulati and Nick Mongillo. Rapidly they added a U12 and a U14 Boys team.

The teams played at La Salette seminary on Oak Avenue in Cheshire, that graciously allowed the teams to use their soccer field – as long as they took care of it. Cheshire’s Park & Recreation department gave them some equipment while parents donated the rest (e.g. goals, nets, flags, balls).

That was the time of the jack-of-all-trades: “At the beginning we had to organize everything ourselves: we would cut the grass with a lawnmower that we brought from Nick’s parents’ house, line the fields, coach younger teams in the Park & Rec program, ref younger games, and even create our own uniforms: we first tried to put numbers on t-shirts with water paint (which didn’t work well), then with tape (didn’t work either), before Nick’s mom sewed them on. We had no long-term vision. It was all about playing and doing everything so we could play” said Sunil and Nick. Sunil later became president of the US Soccer Federation, and Nick is still involved in soccer as assistant coach of the high school boys team.

At around the same time, in the mid-1970s, Cheshire’s Parks & Recreation department’s director Richard Bartlem (the namesake for Bartlem Park) started a complementary town soccer program for younger children.


1980s: Emergence of the club vision centered around player development

The club grew fast in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The club added a U19 Girls team in 1980, at a time when girls’ sport was way less prevalent than it is now: in order to find enough players to field one team they had players ranging from 12 years old to 18 years old. It didn’t take long to add U12 and U14 Girls teams. In 1982 the club had its first indoor practices for young players at the high school gym.

A few years later the club took over the U8 and U10 in-house program from the town’s Park & Recreation department: several parents who coached the club teams were also involved in coaching the younger Parks & Rec teams, which made the transition smoother. This transition helped streamline coaching philosophy and ensure that each child had the most age-appropriate, soccer-specific conditions to develop themselves.

During this period the club formalized its statutes as well as its mission, grounded in player development, which we still live by today. "Our philosophy is: Teaching everybody to become the best they can be," as then club president Al McWhirter summarized. “If you focus on that, winning will take care of itself when children grow up - It was a hard sell to parents though." (50 years later it still is😉!).

The club rolled out this philosophy around player development across all age groups. For instance: the club introduced small-sided games for younger players and developed the Do’s and Don’ts that you can still find today in the in-house parents’ packets (Like “No coaching from the sideline” – still work in progress 50 years later😉!) and which were picked up by many other clubs subsequently.


1980s and 1990s: Quinnipiac Park, home of Cheshire Soccer Club

When the club first started a Girls program they played at La Salette seminary along with the boys. After a year or so La Sallette decided the boys could stay but the girls could no longer play there (“they show too much skin” - it was a different time back then). The club decided that if the girls weren't welcome, neither were the boys - and the club moved on.

This was the beginning of a difficult period for the club, as it took about 5 years to find a home. It settled at Cheshire Academy and used several locations across towns for practice (among others in Cheshire Park on route 10 and behind the high school), none of them being optimal for the practice of soccer.

By the mid-1980s the club finally found its home: Quinnipiac Park.

During the 1980s Cheshire’s growth accelerated: the population increased about 20% and the town recognized the need for more athletic fields.

The town turned a corn field into three adult-sized soccer fields (field 1-2, field 3-4, and field 5) as well as, initially, a softball field. That was the beginning of Quinnipiac Park.

A few years later the club partnered up with baseball teams to ask the town to build athletic fields in Bartlem Park – the town built softball and soccer fields at Bartlem park and converted the softball field at Quinnipiac Park into soccer fields 6 and 7 (dedicated to Al McWhirter, who devoted 30 years of his life as a volunteer to Cheshire Soccer Club and then moved on the become the president of the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association and chairman of the National Rules Committee of the United States Youth Soccer Association). Consequently all of Quinnipiac Park was dedicated to soccer.

In the 1990s the club and the town built the snack bar and the pavilion, and the town added bathrooms (there were none in the first years).

By the late 1980s, in less than 20 years, the club had grown from a dozen players to several hundreds of players, with a U8/U10 in-house program and a U11 through U19 travel program.

  

2000s: Expansion into new programs

Premier teams

The 2000s saw the growth of premier soccer programs in Connecticut, which paved the way for the transition from parent coaching to professional soccer coaching – and therefore elevating the pace of development of players. Initially limited to a handful of clubs in Connecticut (West Hartford, Oakwood, South Central, and Beachside), they started growing – and taking the best players out of town programs. This was great for the best players, but this trend weakened travel teams and drained opportunities for other players to develop themselves.

Premier club Academica Futebol Club (AFC) settled in Cheshire in the mid-2000s – which enabled Cheshire players to join a premier program without traveling long distances. Within a few years though too many players from each age group would leave the club’s Travel teams and join AFC – making the collaboration with the club particularly challenging.

Consequently Cheshire Soccer Club decided to develop its own premier program, Cheshire United, and hired former professional soccer player (and CSC alum) DJ Pereira as director of coaching. By the mid-2010s AFC left Cheshire. This move secured a high-quality premier program in Cheshire while making sure that it would grow harmoniously alongside the in-house and Travel programs.

Younger players

Around the same time Cheshire Soccer Club took over the U6 program from the town – the last piece of the younger soccer program that the town had started in the 1970s – and incorporated this new age group into its overall development philosophy. The club later started a U4 program.

Referees

Over the years Cheshire Soccer Club started actively training young referees - fulfilling its mission to develop not only players, but also coaches and referees. The club now has about 50 young referees each season who ref our in-house games each weekend - and learn to look at the game from a very different viewpoint.


Today

Cheshire Soccer Club now has three full-fledged programs: in-house (from U4 through U10), Travel (from U10 through U19), and premier (from U8 through U14). About 900 children enjoy soccer several times a week on the Quinnipiac fields, thanks to about 100 parents and paid coaches – and we still have the same philosophy as in the early days, grounded in player development and the joy of playing of soccer.


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