BATESVILLE — Note: This information was submitted by Bill Betts.
Youth soccer in Batesville has its roots in the late 1970’s when the Batesville Soccer Program was started by volunteer members of the Batesville Kiwanis organization. The club was managed by parents of players and for many years Bob and Barb Bernens led the club, organizing each season with oversight by the Kiwanis Club.
By 1984, Batesville had 384 kids playing soccer. Throughout the 1980’s the sport grew in Batesville, but it really took off when Dave and Ruthie Mannix became involved in the early 1990’s. Early on there was no formal high school soccer program, but a major push was initiated in 1997 by parents and club members to incorporate soccer into the high school athletic department. Youth soccer continued to grow in Batesville, reaching a milestone in 2002 with the opening and dedication of the Bill Gillespie Soccer Park. Prior to that time, all games and practices were played behind Batesville High School and Batesville Primary School, on what are now the Batesville High School softball fields - and there were no permanently designated fields for soccer. The opening of Gillespie Soccer Park generated further interest and participation in youth soccer and by 2003 over 600 local kids was participating in the sport. Today, more than 550 local kids play soccer each year, supported by more than 40 sponsors and 100 coaches and volunteers.
Bill Gillespie, for whom the park was named, was a Kiwanian and a leader in the program, serving as a coach and referee from the early days of the program until his retirement in 1999.
The Batesville Soccer Club sponsors teams playing in both the Fall and Spring seasons. The Fall season is a recreational league for both boys and girls ages 4 – 14. Batesville teams play in the Eastern Association Soccer League (EISA) with teams from Sunman and Greensburg. The fall season begins in late July or early August, running early October and ending in the now regionally famous "Casket Cup" tournament where up to 75 teams from all over Indiana and Ohio compete with 3v3 teams. This year we had over 40 sponsors and 36 teams for the Fall league, and 73 teams played in the Casket Cup Tournament. The Spring Season, which runs from March through May, features select teams that travel throughout the state of Indiana. Teams are formed through competitive try-outs by age and gender, with over 200 kids playing each Spring. All local Spring teams play under the name of Southeastern Indiana (SEI) United, as part of the Indiana Soccer League (ISL) and are affiliated with Indiana Soccer, which is the governing body for soccer within the state.
The Batesville Soccer Club is governed by an executive Board of Directors, along with numerous volunteers for committee positions. The Executive Board meets monthly, and Batesville Soccer Club is a non-profit 501c corporation, reserving funds for capital projects and the maintenance of affordable player fees. The fundraising efforts are primarily through sponsorships, concession sales, support from the Kiwanis and the end of year tournament. Batesville Soccer Club partners with the Kiwanis to promote the Batesville Applefest, through the sales of raffle tickets, and our Concession stand has reciprocal agreements with other area soccer clubs to help raise funds for each club through the sale of "treat tickets" to provide snacks for players after each game.
The Batesville Soccer Club Charter exemplifies the commitment of the Board of Directors, Coaches and Volunteers to promoting youth soccer in Batesville. It states in part, "The Batesville Soccer Club was formed as an organization where children could learn and play soccer. The fact that any size player can be successful at the game, and the modest expense required to field a team, makes it possible for many children to participate in organized competition. These factors, plus the enthusiasm of the children once they’ve played the game, will result in the growth of our program. It is our function to provide guidance and instruction for new participants, an organizational structure to form leagues and schedule games, and proscribe rules and regulations that will ensure safe, enjoyable and fair competition. To win at any cost is contradictory to the basic objectives of the Soccer Association for Youth to which we subscribe. Stacking teams, try-out camps, all-star powerhouses, etc. may produce a climate of excellence for the talented few, but will not in the long run be beneficial to the vast majority of young people involved."
Statewide, soccer clubs like Batesville’s are challenged with finding volunteers and qualified coaches and referees. Indian Soccer has been very supportive and progressive in the development of players, coaches and referees through initiation of guidelines and standards. Naturally, certifications are necessary for referees in order to maintain the integrity and safety of the game, but Indiana Soccer has gone so far as requiring certification for coaches as well. Their focus is not only on player development but player enjoyment as a soccer player progresses through the age groups, so that the child does not lose interest in the game.
None of this would be possible without the continued support of our volunteers, parents, coaches, the City of Batesville and the local business community. We are very fortunate to have a corporate citizen in Hillenbrand Industries. Without their support and generosity the completion of Bill Gillespie Soccer Park would have been extremely challenging. The Batesville Street Department has been instrumental in the care and maintenance of the facility and fields, and through their dedication the players of Batesville Soccer have a quality, safe environment in which to play.