Volunteers are the lifeblood of lower-division soccer teams, and Kitsap Soccer Club is no exception. The club boasts an impressive staff of community members who have generously dedicated their time and passion to running its operations.
More than a dozen Kitsap County residents, most of them wearing yellow “event staff” shirts, scurry around Gordon Field on matchday to complete their various tasks. The first faces fans might see are Julie Jones and Rikki Morgan, who run the ticket booth.
“I enjoy greeting the public, long-time fans and fans that are attending their first game,” Jones says. “It’s great that we have this in Kitsap County. I truly enjoy it; I love the game, and I really love the people and players.”
Besides her job taking tickets, Morgan also acts as the club’s player liaison. She is often the first point of contact for the apartment complexes and host families that house Kitsap SC players during the season, and if players run into an issue with their living situation, she is the person they usually contact.
Judy Bigelow has taken multiple players into her home over the years as homestay support for the club.
“I cannot name a favorite player who has lived here. I love them all,” Bigelow says. “If I had a barracks, I would invite all of them to stay. I enjoy having the boys around. They have added so much to my life. I have three seasons of good memories and hope to add to that.”
Rikki’s husband, Scott Morgan, runs security on the east end of Gordon Field, where the players and officials enter. Others who have a hand in matchday operations include referee liaison Rob Riner, security guard Chris Wray and operations assistants Ben Wilson and Christian Ramirez.
“I have been involved with soccer for more than 20 years, and having a professional soccer team in a town the size of Bremerton is a wonderful indication of how far the sport has developed,” Riner says. “I think everyone in the organization is exceptional, and that’s what keeps me coming back.”
Overseeing the whole team on game days is director of operations and field manager Mike Wright, who was just a fan when the club started playing in 2009. Since 2014, he can often be found in the blazing sun, wiping sweat from his brow in between putting up flags and advertising boards, as well as filling water and ice containers for the players and referees—all before a single fan pulls into the Gordon Field parking lot.
“My wife and I saw how many kids were so excited to watch the team play and get autographs from players after the games, and we realized what an amazing club we had with so much potential to influence youth soccer in the area,” Wright says. “Seeing children look up to players that they can actually talk to and get actual advice firsthand, in my opinion, is priceless. I have two kids who have had nothing but great times watching, talking and playing around with our players.”
Wright’s role is all-encompassing and epitomizes the kind of dedication and effort that often goes unseen by the general public, although they would certainly notice if it ceased to exist.
“As game day manager, I’m responsible for setting up the fields prior to kickoff and ensuring the referees, coaches, and other volunteers are all informed on their roles,” Wright says. “I coordinate with any ball kids for the game. I act as a liaison for locker room set-up for the refs, away teams and home team. I also try to engage as many of the fans as possible to encourage more youth participation in cheering.”
Wright is also a familiar face to Kitsap SC players and coaching staff, as he often drives rental vans to and from the airport when the team travels, as well as shuttling players to and from the hotel during tryouts.
“I couldn’t really say exactly how much time I spend doing this during the whole year,” Wright says. “I know my family and I are always excited when January comes around because we know tryouts are starting up, and we get to see incoming talent and possibly returning faces. It’s always exciting to see the other volunteers, too, since we all have such busy lives away from the field.”
When Kitsap SC hosts its open tryout on Jan. 28 and invitational tryout on March 11 and 12, a team of volunteers will again be on hand. They’ll put up tents to shield participants from the weather when they’re not on the field, help players register, serve snacks and drinks and otherwise support the coaching staff so it can focus on evaluating players.
Wright, Rikki Morgan, Julie Jones, Wilson, Vicki MacKenzie and Brian and Jennifer Simpson are consistent faces at the club’s tryouts. Many of the club volunteers have been involved in one way or another since Day One.
“I do what I can to help out. It’s a small club with limited resources, so it seems only the right thing to do,” Brian Simpson says. “I just imagine being away from home can be hard on the players, and a friendly face and exchange of words goes a long way to letting them concentrate on the task at hand.”
One new face did join the club in 2016.
Andrew Harvey joined the club in anticipation of being its play-by-play commentator, but when the club couldn’t get livestreaming off the ground in time for the season, he stayed on anyway. Instead, he recorded his own commentary during the match and synced it with the game film to be posted on YouTube, along with running the club social media accounts during play.
It came together brilliantly for the club’s trip to California in June 2016, when it defeated the Sacramento Republic of the USL in the U.S. Open Cup, claiming its first victory over a full-time professional club in the competition.
“Sacramento was heavily favored to win,” Harvey says, recounting the trip. “No one predicted a spat of four goals in six minutes of play—and I got to try to keep up with all the goals while scribbling down my notes! Kitsap got a 3-1 victory, stunning a crowd of thousands at Bonney Field.”
The club hopes to have a streaming solution at its home field soon, and Harvey and his father and color commentator, Jim Harvey, have been instrumental in trying to improve the infrastructure in the minuscule press box.
Kitsap SC could not be more thankful of the support and dedication that its team of volunteers provides on a daily basis during the season and whenever it’s called upon year-round. Quite simply, the club would not exist without them.
“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them,” club owner Robin Waite says. “We just hope that we can continue to ensure they find value in what they do for us and that we can make them proud on the field, but they’re what make this small, local club great.”