The History of Jefferson Kiwanis Youth Soccer Club
While on vacation in the summer of 1978, Joe Kennedy had a vision to bring a youth soccer program to the Upper Ohio Valley. Tony Recinella whom founded the CCHS soccer program, Ward Rodgers, Libero Barca, Frank Bruzzese, Pete Scaffidi, Carl Arlotta, Jerry Gast, along with Dom Buccaferni, the first coach of the Indian Creek Girls Soccer team shared Kennedy’s enthusiasm. Some of these were the first coaches of our league. Soon after, Manuel Federico and Pete Petrides also got involved. Special help came from John Cunningham of Bethany College (still the Bison’s Men’s Soccer coach) who came across the river to mentor these new coaches.
The league started with about 60 kids, forming teams from the U-8 division to the U-14 division.
By 1980, the league had grown to about 100 players and seven teams strong. In those early years, games were played at Belleview Park, The College of Steubenville, and Hills Elementary School.
During the summer of 1985, the Steubenville Kiwanis Club, on behalf of the young soccer league, entered into a 20-year lease agreement with Big Bear Stores Company, to allow fields to be developed on their property. The first field (the U-12/14 field) was used the following year along with Belleview Park. Our other fields U-10, U-8, U-6 gradually followed during the 1990’s.
In 1986 travel teams were formed at the U-14 and U-16 levels. The 1988 U-16 Steubenville Raiders coached by Tony Recinella went all the way to the Ohio State finals and ended as the state runner-up.
By 1990, the league had grown to 34 teams ranging from the U-8 division to the U-18 division. During the 90’s the league would gradually cut off at U-14 as more of the local high school soccer programs began.
In the Fall of 1991, in an effort to memorialize Peppy Pesce’s contributions to the league, an award in his honor was given to a U-14 player of the previous year to recognize that player’s talent and sportsmanship.
A travel team was reestablished in the spring of 1999 at the U-16 level for boys. They played in the Western Pa. league against Pittsburgh area teams. In the spring of 2000, a U-17 and U-14 boys traveling team played in the Western Pa. league with the hope that participation in travel teams will continue to grow.
The Fall 2000 season saw the beginning of all girl teams with two teams in the U-14 division and three teams in the U-12 division, with an increase in participation to 52 teams and 625 girls and boys playing.
In 2000 planning started for the development of the new soccer complex. The vision was to serve the all of Jefferson County Youth by creating a soccer club. The plan was to build a complex to meet the growing needs of soccer, by promoting youth recreational soccer, travel soccer, tournament soccer, soccer for the disabled community, and soccer for the under privileged. With the help of the United States Soccer Foundation a plan was created and community partners including private corporations, individuals, government, foundations and education committed to implement the plan.
With only a few sites available to the club, the Jefferson County Airpark was chosen and groundbreaking started in 2002. Prior fundraising had placed the club in a good position and with continued support from community partners the complex was 75 percent finished in 2005. The club moved to that location in 2005 and continued to develop the complex in conjunction with games being played there. 2007 and 2008 saw the completion of the buildings, improvement of the road, and seeding of the final six acres, with the concession stand opening in 2008. New programs were created in 2008 with TOPS SOCCER, for the disabled community, and 2009 with the City of Steubenville project, for under privileged youth. The first recreational club tournament was held in 2008. Participation peaked to 1000 girls and boys, and the planning for regional tournaments began in 2009.