East London Soccer Association – Since 1983

East London Soccer Association – Since 1983

elo_ssSoccer Club was started by the East London Optimist Club in 1983.  Soccer in East London owes its existence to a London Transit bus driver, Optimist Ron Gregory. Thirty years ago if a child played soccer in East London it was usually at the competitive level. There was nowhere for the average player to play. Ron had run a small soccer group, 50 or 60 players, mostly for the love of the game. Optimist Ron joined East London Optimist in March 1983 and that summer East London Optimist Soccer Club was born for children 5 to 8 years old. At that time, all recreation children’s soccer in the City of London was under the Optimist name. The Southwest, Southeast, Byron, Nor’west, Kensal Park, Oakridge and North London Optimist Clubs had long been associated with children soccer. The Mites (U6) and Squirts (U8) division names were chosen. Children 9 and older had to play out of the area for the North East Soccer League.

The league played at Princess Anne School on Dawn Drive in the early years. The City developed the parkland in Kiwianis Park putting in three mini soccer fields. The soccer fields were accessible via the East London Optimist Community Centre property at 1697 Trafalgar Street, so it was a good fit. Soccer increased in popularity and an additional field was built. Ron as the Soccer Chair developed roles of Mite convenor, Squirt convenor and Head Referee. People that were instrumental in the early days were Herman Post, Gord Lammers, Ken Fischer and Optimist Dan Rodrigues.

Children 9 and older continued to play our of the area on full size fields with the North East League. Ron noticed some children were not strong enough to play on a full size field, so the Ranger Division was started for 9 year old players. After 11 years as the Soccer Chair, Ron told the Optimist Club the next year would be his last and they would need to find a replacement. As the only administrative person for a league of 275 children it took a lot of Ron’s personal time. That replacement turned out to be me, Optimist Richard Towle.

I did not make changes the first year, the second year the U-9 players became U-10 players, the next year U-l 1 players. We now needed full size fields for the older players. The Club used Prince Charles School and East Lions Park. We had always had co-ed teams and decided to separate the U-l 1 age group by sex. We tried competitive teams for two years with limited results. We expanded to U-13 age group and these children played in the East Middlesex Soccer League. Now I was the only administrative person for a 675 children soccer league and it took up all of my personal time. The Optimist club coordinated the establishment of a separate Soccer Committee to administer the Soccer program. We created a Board of Directors, wrote bylaws and established a constitution. The Committee continued to expand the children age groups until we fielded teams for U-l8 aged players.

A couple of wet spring and summers showed that our Kiwanis soccer fields were no longer suitable and parking had always been an issue. The City suggested we move to St. Julien Park. If we moved, the Committee wanted all children 10 and under to play at one site, at the time the program used two separate locations. We moved part of the program to St. Julien Park the first year and the City built two additional fields, and moved most of the program the second year. The U-6 group played an extra year off site, but, by 2007 all children 10 and under played at the same location. The St. Julien facility has 4 mini soccer fields for U-8 and U-10 players and 3 micro-mini fields for U-6 players. The Club started a U-4 division in 2008 playing on Saturday mornings. In 2011 a women’s division was established and in 2012 a men’s division.

In 2012, there were 1,550 players playing under the East London Soccer name. The soccer club provides soccer for male and females from age 3 and over up to adulthood.

Submitted by Optimist Richard Towle, Past Soccer Chair

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