Cape Coral Soccer was founded in September of 1974 by Gerald & Sandra Willin, Chuck King and Aubry Lott. Mr. Willin was the first president of the organization. He worked for Ambassador Homes with Tony Novo Sr., who had played soccer professionally in Spain, and while working they talked about putting together an organization so that local kids would have the chance to play soccer. Tony’s wife was a seamstress and for the first few years, she would sew together the uniforms for the teams. Each week these men would load the players into vans and drive across the state to Miami to play, as there were no other local teams for them to play against. Eddie shares a story that many times on the way to or from Miami if the boys were misbehaving in the van, Mr. Novo would pull the van over and make the boys who were in trouble get out, then he would drive some distance up the road and the boys would have to run along the side of the road to get back to the van. This was back when Alligator Alley was a 2 lane road through the middle of the Everglades, with no fences to keep alligators or other wildlife from getting to the roadway. And Coach Novo was an avid cigar smoker – as seen here on the practice field – and the drives across the state were no different. Second-hand smoke for his athletes was not a concern.
They started out practicing on the outfield at the Pelican baseball fields for the first few years. Eventually the club had enough money to buy sod and the city gave them the land that is now the Pelican soccer complex. Players from that era included Eddie Carmean, Phil Salvagio, Drew Burwash, Greg Willin, Tony Novo Jr. and RC Campagnolo – all of whom went on to play soccer professionally.
The founding members of the board were similar to the board members who succeeded them – parents who were looking for a place for their kids to be able to play soccer. Greg Willin, the president’s son, and Scott King, the vice president’s son, and Tony Novo Jr., the coaches son each went on play soccer in college, while Tony and Greg also played professionally. Eventually as their kids moved out of youth soccer, these men and women also moved on and new leadership took control. Norm Rosen, who our annual 3 v 3 tournament is named for, was president of the organization for many years. Norm ran the club with an iron fist, but did everything with the goal of bettering the organization for the kids. The sport was all about the kids for him, and the job of the adults was to make it possible for them to play and stay out of the way. John Stienweg, who eventually would move up to become the Region C vice president for FYSA, also was active in the program in those early years. While Norm handled the rec side of the program, it was John who came and in began to develop competitive soccer in Southwest Florida to levels it had not seen before. John pushed FYSA to bring President’s Cup tournament to Cape Coral, which was a huge financial windfall for the city restaurants and hotels in April of 1992. Men like Mike Calcaterra and Craig Conklin were also influential in bringing CCSA up to a higher level of competition and coaching winning teams at competitions around the state.
In 1979 Cape Coral Soccer got their first recognition at the state level when the U-10 boys team (then known as the Tornados) including our very own Eddie Carmean, advanced to the State Finals before losing 1-0 in double overtime of the championship game. 9 year olds playing 11 v 11 on a full field, and the game went to double overtime! Imagine how exhausted those kids must have been.
In 1982 that same team made their presence known across the Atlantic Ocean, when they took a 3 week trip to play exhibition games with team in Germany, Austria and Italy. The team had success against the Europeans and managed to get in sightseeing trips as well. In the days before cell phones and email, can you as a parent imagine letting your kid go for 3 weeks overseas? Maybe for the first few days that would be GREAT, but after that first week…
The first national exposure for CCSA was in 2006, when the U14 girls team coached by Eric Lamboy and Robert Hutcherson, two coaches who remain with the program to this day, won President’s Cup and went to Huntsville Alabama to represent Florida at the USYS Region III tournament. They played against teams from Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas and finished with a win and two losses (including 1 to the eventual champion). In addition, the U17 girls team that year, coached by Bill Carvalho, was invited at the last minute to play in the U19 division after another team withdrew. That team finished with 2 wins and 1 loss against teams from Alabama, Tennessee and South Texas – a pretty good result considering their goalie was only 14! For 7 of the past 9 seasons, CCSA has had at least one team win at FYSA President’s Cup and represent the state of Florida at the United States Youth Soccer Region III Nationals.
In 2010 the U15G ICSA team coached by Chris Matherin, Patrick Pratt and Tim Swisher.
2011 U14 girls – Felix and Paolo Acosta
2012 two teams – U17B coached by Mick Whitewood, U16B coached by Raphael Gelin and former president Steve Duquette
2013 U17B Coach Anthony Martin
2014 U15G coach Tye Cole and Pat Saidi
2017 U13G Coach Raphael Gelin
2018 U17B Coach Anthony Martin
2019 two teams, U13G Coach Nick Erickson and Coach Trevor Jurkowski, and U16G Coach Tye Cole
While we haven’t produced a National Champion yet, we are extremely proud to have had at least one CCSA team represent the state of Florida at the USYS Presidents Cup National Regionals for eight of the last nine years.
In addition to the representation by these CCSA teams at the state and national level, it should also be noted that CCSA Cyclone players have in recent years become dominant forces for their high school teams as well. In 2011, the Cape Coral High School boys team, led by our very own coach Aldo Nardiello and captained by then senior Paolo Acosta, won the FHSAA Class 4A State Championship. Not to be outdone, the very next year, the Ida Baker girls team won the FHSAA Class 4A State Championship. What is so special about both of these championship team is that almost every player on those two teams came up through the ranks of the CCSA rec and competitive programs. He now dons the coaches shirt as he is the coach of his daughter Emily’s U15 Cyclones team for the upcoming season.
After Norm Rosen passed away, we have had David Peer and then Steve Duquette each take a turn at the helm as President. Cathy Hunter served as President from 2009-2018, and remains active as the club treasurer and as an assistant coach. Our current President is Josh Bevington, who took over last year after several years as an administrative board member. Josh is another board member who grew up playing soccer for CCSA as a child, and now serves on the board while also assisting with his sons team. Many people, myself included, have been around this organization for many years and while mistakes occasionally have been made, the bottom line is this: just as Norm dictated so many years ago, it is the job of the adults to make it possible for the kids to play and for the adults to stay out of the way.
CCSA has often been referred to as a “mom & pop” organization. The people who use that term about us say it as a negative, however they could not be more wrong. The board members who have served this organization for the last 45 years were all “moms” or “pops” – even back to Mr. Willin and the other founding members. They each joined the board because they wanted to provide a place for their kids as well as every other kid to have a chance to play and to make this club the best it could be. We aren’t a club led by foreigners who jump from club to club each year to get a bigger paycheck and then getting run off by the end of the year for not accomplishing their stated objective – to be the best club in southwest Florida. We don’t need them – we are the best club in southwest Florida year after year, and the moms and the pops are what makes it happen because they lead the club with passion to do what is best for their kid and every other kid in the organization.
Hopefully you found this entertaining as we looked back over the first 45 years of the organization. As coach Aldo often says on the soccer field, we learn more from losses than from wins, and this organization has learned from missteps in the past in order to strengthen the club for the future. While certainly there has been an occasional mistake made here or there, we must be doing something right! And now we put the past behind us to focus on the future, to let the kids play.
This is a sign that CCSA IS doing it right – unlike 45 years ago when there was nowhere else to play, now there are other clubs around that you could go to. If you grew up playing in CCSA and you keep your player here, then you must feel that we are doing the best we can for you’re your child. Everyone in this room should feel that way, because it is the truth – all the employees and volunteers here are each doing our best to make this the best youth soccer club in Southwest Florida. Eddie Carmean, your director of coaching, started with the club as a U9 player – he played soccer in high school for Cape High, in college at USF in Tampa, then played professionally for the Kansas City Attack. When his playing career was over, he came back to where it all began for him and took a job as a team trainer for CCSA. Eventually he was hired as the Director of Coaching in 2009 as the board looked to take the club in a new direction. And today he starts a new chapter and joins the group so many of us are a part of – the parent coach. Because in addition to the DOC hat which he wears 365 days a year, he now will don the coaches shirt as he becomes the coach of his daughter Emily’s U15 Cyclones team for the upcoming season.