When we asked our volunteers to answer a few simple questions for our feature on them, we thought they might give us some great responses. Rather than just shoehorning a few into a short story, we also wanted to give them their own space.
The experiences of our volunteers tell their own story about the history of the club, from its inception in 2009 to a national title in 2011 and impressive run in the U.S. Open Cup in 2016.
Mike Wright, director of operations and field manager
“I first got involved as a fan, taking my family to watch the team play when they were playing home games back at Bremerton High School. When Greg Miley came from England to play, he also became my son’s coach for Central Kitsap United. 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. It wasn’t until the 2014 season that I was asked to help fill in as game day manager and set up the field. In 2015, I was officially offered to take over permanently and was beyond excited to help contribute to Kitsap SC.
“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.
“I couldn’t really say exactly how much time I spend doing this during the whole year. 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. There are times I might get asked to pick up players from the airport. I usually get the rental vans and pick players up from the hotel and bring them to the fields for tryouts. I love that part, since it gives me time to chat and get to know a few of the new faces.
“I try to see what this club can do for the local clubs in the long run. Being able to watch players trying to chase the dream of becoming a professional footballer is awesome, but it’s more awesome knowing that our local youth players can watch them and get to interact with them directly. You can’t get there with MLS teams. 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.
“I have seen us win a championship, make it to another championship, make the playoffs multiple times, play against the Sounders first team and give them a run for their money in the Open Cup. I have seen many players come and go, as well as a few coaches. I have seen a few uniform changes—personally, I loved the blue and white hoops!
“I usually keep in touch with [former players] on Facebook. I would say some of my favorite players, not in any particular order, have been Greg Miley, Cammy MacDonald, Kyle Johnson, Dustyn Brim and Matt Friesen. One of my favorite memories—and there are a ton of them—was watching the team win the national championship and having Greg Miley’s jersey autographed by the entire team after they won. I gave it to my son as a birthday gift. I also had a soccer ball autographed by the 2014 team that was given to my daughter for her birthday.
“I look forward to this upcoming season!”
Judy Bigelow, homestay support
“I became involved with the team in March 2014 when I offered to house a couple young soccer players. It seemed like a huge step into the unknown because I did not know exactly how that would look. I had lost my husband in November 2013, so my life had totally changed. I had a house with two rooms and a bathroom upstairs that could qualify as living quarters as well as a guest room on the main level.
“The first arrival was Craig Rogers from Liverpool. Well, actually, I had a young man named Kwabe who was a trialist prior to the season. He returned home, leaving me with an empty house again. After Craig arrived and moved in upstairs, Matt Grosey arrived and moved into the guest room. Then I received a call from Julie for help. The club was expecting a boy from Northern Ireland, and he was needing a place to stay. So he moved into the den upstairs. What a terrific group of young men. I have said repeatedly to my family, ‘How could I be so lucky to have three of the most wonderful young men to care for?’ I thought if I just acted like a mom, which I already know, things would work out.
“I have been a fan since 2009, when the club began. My husband was one of their most avid supporters, and we gave season tickets to our three kids as Christmas gifts over the years. Attending the games has always been one of our favorite family activities.
“I cannot name a favorite player who has lived here. I love them all: Craig Rogers, Andy Devlin, Matt Grosey, Marcus Lees, Carlos Patino, Matthew Eronemo, Brodie Steigerwald. I also enjoyed getting to know Alex Matos, who was here for tryouts from Macao.
“If I had a barracks, I would invite all of them to stay. I enjoy having the boys around. They do their own cooking and clean-up. I keep the refrigerator stocked with eggs for them. They have added so much to my life. I have three seasons of good memories and hope to add to that. It’s like putting off the empty-nest syndrome a bit longer. I was a soccer mom with my own children, and now I am a soccer grandma for these boys. It’s an arrangement that suits me and one that helps the boys who are working hard to achieve their soccer dreams.
“I always look forward to the home games and have traveled to some of the away games. I just love watching them play. They are dedicated, work daily to stay fit, give 100% every game and are always champions in my book.
“My late husband, Steve, and I have been involved in soccer since 1980, when we lived in Oregon. He coached our kids way back when, and our two sons and daughter and son-in-law had been involved with coaching in Tracyton for several years. We met the Chapmans when Greg coached my son Andy and Greg’s son, Andrew.
“The club has added so much to our community here in Kitsap, making a healthy sport available for the youth and a fun activity for families to enjoy. I will continue to help where I can to promote the growth of the club.”
Julie Jones, ticket sales and tryout support
“Rikki Morgan asked if I wanted to help out in the ticket booth the first year. I loved the game, had been a volunteer for 12 years in the youth soccer clubs, associations, district and state committees. I said, ‘Sure!’ and I’ve been helping ever since the beginning.
“Volunteer, helper, friend—I am willing to help in many ways. I have helped with registration at tryouts, in the ticket booth, on giveaways, as a field monitor and helped with the cancer awareness fundraisers and pink jerseys. I feel privileged to be involved.
“I spend on average two hours per game, all day for tryouts, and whenever something comes up if I am not at work, I usually can help. I enjoy greeting the public, long-time fans and fans that are attending their first game. 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.
“I would love to see us expand. I feel the current coaches are doing a great job of communicating and including fans. I would love to see an increase of numbers at each game and more player-fan interaction events. Tony Kerr still remains my favorite player because of his outgoing personality and humor and how much he really got to know the fans.
“I’m looking forward to the new venture in the NPSL this year!”
Andrew Harvey, play-by-play broadcaster and in-game social media
“I met coach Liviu Bird at a Sounders match that both of us were attending, and in our discussion of Kitsap SC, it came up that the club was looking for a play-by-play broadcaster. I had done play-by-play for all four years in college, so I volunteered to work with Kitsap so that I could continue calling games at a high level while pursuing a career in broadcasting.
“During the season, I probably spend about four hours a week preparing for matches and another eight or nine hours every game day making sure that the club’s quality of broadcast matches the high quality it produces in other areas on and off the pitch.
“Kitsap SC is a great representative of what soccer clubs can offer smaller, non-metropolitan communities in the United States. The club has a good relationship with the local community, a great history and an attractive style of play. The involvement of players with local youth clubs helps grow the game as well. Add in a fantastic, intimate venue in Gordon Field, a gorgeous little oasis of soccer on the Kitsap Peninsula, and you’ve got the ingredients of a great club in the lower levels of U.S. Soccer.
“I traveled with the club down to California to call the club’s 2016 U.S. Open Cup Third Round match against the Sacramento Republic. Sacramento was heavily favored to win. 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.
“Two weeks later, I was up in the booth with my father and color commentator, Jim Harvey, as we broadcast Kitsap’s match against Seattle Sounders FC, the first time that Kitsap had ever made it to the Fourth Round of the U.S. Open Cup. Even though they didn’t win, it was quite a feat to hold the club that went on to win the MLS Cup scoreless for 70 minutes!”
Rob Riner, referee liaison
“I have been involved since the club was first formed. I was a fill-in as the referee liaison at first, and then I took over in Year 2. For the most part, my responsibilities surround making sure the referee crew has what they need. I have been a soccer referee myself for a long time, so I know a lot of the referees who are assigned to our matches. For the most part, I think we get good marks for how we treat the referees when they do matches for us.
“Since I get to the field relatively early to meet the referee crew, I do my best to help out with anything else that needs doing. 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.
“I think everyone in the organization is exceptional, and that’s what keeps me coming back.”
Brian Simpson, tryout support
“Back in 2012, my son tried out for the U9 Kitsap Pumas youth team coached by P.J. Stickney. We started going to Kitsap SC games from that point on. Initial volunteer aspects were limited to just helping our youth coach. In 2013 and 2014, our ‘Puma Parents’ and a few others collectively helped with the ‘big-boy’ tryouts by helping set up, bringing food and snacks and taking down. For 2015 and 2016, after the Pumas youth program merged with Kitsap Alliance FC, the volunteering group of parents was reduced to just a few of us.
“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. 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.
“It’s great to be around people excited about the same thing. While there is no telling how long my son will play and to what level, it allows me an opportunity to experience interactions with an age group my son will be in all too soon.
“I would say the level of coaching proficiency has improved and the players are playing at a more elevated level. There have been a lot of great things done to improve the game day experience. To me, the biggest negatives were clearly the move away from having a youth program and dissolving an extremely competitive indoor team.
“There are a lot of great memories and so many players! My fondest overall memory would be at a youth practice one time when James Ritchie brought about six players to help him coach. Overall, it was just great to see the interaction.”
Rikki Morgan, player liaison
“I had worked on a tournament committee with Ben Pecora. When I found out that Ben was going to be the general manager [in 2009], I reached out to Ben about being involved with the Kitsap Soccer Club. I have been with the club since 2009. When I first started with the club, my volunteer position was game day ticket sales. After the first year, my position expanded to a volunteer for open and invitational tryouts. In 2015, I took on the role of player liaison for the club. I spend around approximately 100 hours volunteering between ticket sales, open and invitational tryouts and being the player liaison.
“The first year with the club, I hosted two players who were here from England, Will Morton and Floyd Croll. Through Will, we also got to know and become friends with Tony Kerr. I am still in contact with Will and Tony to this day.
“The reason is simple: I volunteer because of my love of the game. I have been involved in soccer for over 15 years, since my daughter started playing, as a volunteer in some capacity. I have made some incredible friendships throughout the years, which is a reward in itself. Giving back to the community has always been important to me, and what better way to give back than being involved with the soccer community?
“We have a great group of people from the owner, coaches, staff, volunteers and the fans. It is so incredible to see the excitement and joy in the stands at both our home and away games. We have the greatest fans, in my opinion. One of my favorite memories is when we won the PDL national championship [in 2011] and how excited all of the fans and players were. I have had many favorite players over the years, but Will and Tony will always be very special.”