A Short History of FCYSL

How It All Started

League founder Steve Weeman’s eldest son, Jeff, had played one season of recreation soccer at the Decatur-Dekalb YMCA (DDY) when they moved to Fayetteville. There was no soccer here, so Jeff played a couple of seasons in Clayton County. During the baseball season, Steve spoke with several parents who did not want their kids playing football. He suggested that they try soccer, and through that connection the Fayette County Youth Soccer League was started by Steve and Dennis Kemp.

There were only five teams that first season; four under 8’s and one under 10. The U10 team played with the Peachtree City league which had been started the season before. The original coaches were Steve, Jim Seeby, Gary Green, LD Lowe and Al Guise.

Using two fields at what is now McCurry North the games were a very laid back affair. The coaches knew nothing about the game since none of them had played before. Only a few of the kids had played before either. The basic attitude was that as long as the kids were kicking the ball and happy, everything was fine. On game day Rose Green had two tables set up with home made baked goods and cokes for sale. That was the extent of the concession stand.

The big draw for the parents was that kids got to play at least half of each game. At that time in baseball a player was only guaranteed one at bat and one inning on the field, so many did not really get to play. In the new soccer league they got to play a lot more. There was a lot of kick and run, and not a whole lot of “soccer”, but at that time it worked well for the community and led to rapid growth of the league.

Jeff’s team was always the pioneering group. They were the oldest team as the years went by. Steve became one of the few certified referees in the area and it was not uncommon for him to coach his team and then spend the next few hours refereeing the rest of the games.

The Start of Select Soccer

None of the pioneering group knew anything about select soccer. They had an under 10 team that had not lost a game in two years. Venturing out for more competition they entered a tournament hosted by DDY. Expecting to beat everyone as usual, they were in for a big surprise. Not only did they not win, they were beaten badly.

Steve asked about the kind of teams they were playing. When he was told “Select Teams” he knew he had something new to shoot for. The following year he got the best players he could find in the area and started a select team, the Fayetteville Lightning.

The following year, Georgia Soccer changed select teams from 2-year age groups to single year age groups. Steve knew that none of the leagues in the area had the kind of players it would take to compete under those conditions. He contacted Gary Nidiffer of the Clayton League and Randy Wortman of the Peachtree City League and convinced them to pool their best talent and form what was then known as the South Metro Lightning Soccer Club. All of the players were registered through FCYSL, though the players and coaches came from all three leagues.

The now famous red and yellow colors of Lightning were chosen because no other club in Georgia at the time had that color combination. Over the years this club has had numerous teams play in Regional and National cometitions.

Field Development

FCYSL started with two fields. What we now know as Field 1 was the U8 field and Field 2 was the U10 field. As the kids got older the U12 field was built to accommodate them. That’s now known as Kemp Field or Field 4. Cumbie field was next. It had the profound name of the U14 field.

Field 3 was built on swampland filled in by dumping dirt that was being dug out for the grading of the Banks Crossing Shopping Center. The dirt was leveled by Mr. “Hoss” Couch, a county worker who’s house sat at what is now the parking lot beside Field 5. On Saturdays, after the games, parents would walk the cleared area and pick up rocks and sticks so other volunteers could eventually lay sod.

Field 7 was the last one built at McCurry North. It was developed as a project of the Georgia National Guard in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers. The first game played there was in 1990 and featured a team made up mostly of Lightning players going against a team from Germany.

It was not unusual to drive by the fields at McCurry North and see Steve Weeman and Buddy Cumbie out mowing, spreading fertilizer or sand, and many times repairing the irrigation system. On Saturdays after games on Kemp Field, a tall thin man with a shovel could be seen cleaning out the ditch so the water could drain. This was Mike Leonard and the ditch became quickly known as “Leonard’s Ditch”.

In those days, coaches had to line their own fields before games, at first with lime and later with spray paint. The parking lot was unpaved and there were no lights. When the league first put lights in they used poles donated by Georgia Power. The poles were not quite long enough, so the concrete pillars were built to provide more height and to give a solid base for the lights.

When fields were closed because of rain or during the off-season we had our own security system to keep people off of them. The aforementioned “Hoss” helped us out with that. He was a pretty big person and people would think twice about arguing with him. It was in his honor that Field 3 was named Couch Field.

A lot of the amenities we take for granted now were developed very slowly. For a long time the driveway was not paved. Coming along Highway 54 you could easily tell when you were getting near to the fields because of the dust cloud in the air over the parking lot. The most dangerous moment from not having pavement was when an old pickup truck parked overlooking Kemp field suddenly slid off of the parking lot, slid down the hill and rammed into one of the concrete light pillars. Luckily no one was hurt.

The Association Leaders

There have been numerous Presidents and Boards of Directors over the years, beginning with Steve Weeman and Dennis Kemp. Another of the early League Presidents was Delmar David. He was responsible for construction of the McCurry North Concession Building, with parent labor and materials contributed from various local businesses. He also was the first coach for the women’s adult soccer team in Fayette County, the Thunderbirds, which were Georgia State Champions for at least seven years under Coach Mike Brewer.

Several years after Delmar David was President, Wayne Corley was elected President and did much to help support the rapidly expanding Recreation League and the Lightning Soccer Club.

The next president was Sharron Safriet. She was the first (and only) female President of the League. She was responsible for the construction of the upper pavilion and for beginning the tradition of giving each recreational player and coach an End-of-Season T-Shirt. Sharron went on to work for Georgia Soccer where, among many other things, she runs their tournaments. Running tournaments is something she first did while here at FCYSL.

After Sharron, Chris Williams was elected President, and served about 12 continuous years in that position. During this time the league began to expand very rapidly, along with the population of Fayette County. After the US Women’s dramatic win at the World Cup in 1999 the next walk up registration featured a line of parents stretching from the concession building all the way up the driveway to the parking lot. It became evident that much more field space would be needed to support the needs of both the recreational league and the select teams.

Steve Weeman suggested that Chris request the use of some County property across from the softball complex to build additional fields. Chris went to the County Commissioners and proposed that the County provide the acreage, and the league would provide the funds. The County Commissioners unanimously approved the request. Of course we had about 100 hundred kids in their soccer uniforms show up for this County Commissioner’s Meeting to help them with their decision.

Over the next few years, Chris Williams oversaw the construction of McCurry South with money raised by the League. Around $500,000 was spent on the new fields. Randy Chance, one of the Vice Presidents during this time, and an engineer by trade, was key in the designing, bidding process, and inspection of work during the development and construction of the fields. Randy also provided the design and construction of the picnic tables, about twenty, and the almost sixty wooden structures that hold all the trashcans (which are designed to prevent animals from dumping them over, as well as beings able to push then out of the way like a sled with the lawn mowing equipment). Chris also went to the County and borrowed $250,000 for lights for McCurry South, and saw that the loan was repaid over the next five years.

The Fayette County Football Club was also started during this time. It was originally called Fayette Thunder.

Mr. Couch retired from the County and moved out of the house where he had lived. The house was taken down and the driveway extended to where it is now. All the parking lots were paved. Lee Hearn, who was Director of the Road Department for Fayette County at the time, provided a lot of assistance with paving, as well as providing trucks to haul much needed dirt to raise some of our sinking fields. Chris also worked closely with Billy Beckett, the County Administrator, and Mary Alice Lawrence, the Director of Parks and Recreation, at that time. They were very supportive of the capital improvements that the league made with league funds, such as buildings and fields.

Once constructed, the County took over the maintenance costs of the new facilities. This partnership between the County and the League has lasted over the years and has helped make the complex what it is today. The League still takes responsibility for the maintenance of the actual field surface to ensure excellent playing conditions year round. Harold Vernon has tackled this task over the past years.

Finally after 12 years, Chris convinced Harold Vernon that he should run for President. Harold presided over the league and also applied his landscaping talents to making McCurry North and South to be as picturesque as they are at present. His wife Angela has been the curator of the flowers and shrubs.

After about four years, Harold gave up the presidency to concentrate on his position as Director of Recreation on the Georgia Soccer board. He got Chris Williams to be President again for about three more years.

Bryan McDermott became President for two years, until he was also dragged off to become the Vice President of Youth on the Georgia Soccer Board.

Currently Ron Krebs is using his talents to guide the league through a recession. He has also overseen the installation of new lighting at McCurry North, as well as the redesign of the lighting system to provide for more flexibility of field sizing and configuration.

Chris, Harold, Bryan and Ron all worked closely with the current Director of Parks and Recreation, Anita Godbee, as well as with an outstanding County Maintenance Department

There are numerous others who have given their time and talents to help make the league what it is today, such as Don Holder, who has been a Board Member longer than anyone else, and long past the time when his kids played soccer on these fields.

All About The Kids

FCYSL is not about these parents, but about the kids who have really made us all proud by their accomplishments.

We have had players on the US National Soccer Teams. Kelley O’Hara is the most recent having won an Olympic gold medal with the US Women’s Team. She was one of only three players on that team to play every minute of every game. Clint Mathis was the first soccer player to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated. It was on May 22, 2002 as he was getting ready to play on the US Men’s National team in the World Cup. Ricardo Clark has played on two US World Cup teams, professional teams in Europe, and now plays for Houston Dynamo in the MLS. Rakel Kravelsson played for the Icelandic Women’s National Team and professionally with the Philadelphia Charge of the WUSA. In the professional ranks we have recently had Ricardo’s brother, Richonne, accepted in a special training system for professional referees.

In addition to some great soccer players, the League has helped some of our players who went on to other fields of endeavor. Ben Landis and Kenny Adams who were both outstanding players are now doctors. Jason Thompson has returned from law school to practice law in Fayette County, run for Judge, and coach his kids in the League. Andy Thompson, Jason’s brother, has returned to Fayetteville and is a Lightning coach. Their dad, Tommy, coached both Jason and Andy when they were kids and now helps to coach his grandkids.

There are countless players who have been through FCYSL. Many have returned to help out or have brought their children to play here. Despite the constant changing of the guard the Fayette County Youth Soccer League continues to thrive.

Chris Williams & Bryan McDermott
October, 2012