Indian River Soccer Academy History
In 1986 Osama bin Laden was American’s friend, a freedom fighter trying to end the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In Vero Beach, one of the biggest stories of the year was the slaying of Richard Raczkoski, a friendly Indian River County sheriff's deputy checking on the welfare of a man standing outside a convenience store at 82nd Avenue and State Road 60.
Meantime, folks like Roy Byrd, Beverly Souza, John Manry, Barbara and Ted Bolduc, and Kathy and John Brown were trying to find a place for their children to play soccer against teams from outside the area. So they formed the nonprofit Indian River Soccer Association, an upgraded version of what was offered by the Vero Beach-Indian River County Recreation Department, which played on the 16th Street fields across from Vero Beach High School, and the YMCA, which played at what’s now Leisure Square. They initially began playing against teams from the south, but soon linked up with the Brevard Youth Soccer League. IRSA and BYSL were affiliated with the Florida Youth Soccer Association, an affiliate of U.S. Youth Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Those affiliations enabled IRSA teams to play in state and national competitions and have nationally certified coaches train volunteer coaches and players. The affiliation also enabled the club to start a USSF-sanctioned referee program to develop new referees young and old.
IRSA’s first seasons were played at the Hobart baseball fields across from the Indian River County Fairgrounds. Eventually, the club moved its games to what was hard, rough bahiagrass just south of what's now called the Freshman Learning Center, Rosewood Magnet School and what's now the Vero Beach dog park in MacWilliam Park.
Volunteers striped the fields and set them up and down each day of play. IRSA members even helped found the Sebastian Soccer Association because families there wanted something closer to home.
IRSA members hoped one day their children could play at "The Promised Land," an overgrown area along 20th Avenue between 12th Street and Vero Beach High School. Eventually, club members, with permission of the school board, cleared the brush and built fields.
That's where competitive games were played until the late 1990s. In late 1994, the club signed a lease with Indian River County to build fields just west of the Indian River Fairgrounds. Eventually, the club raised enough money and got enough in-kind donations and volunteer efforts to build seven fields.
It added bathrooms and an eighth field after a separate capital campaign a few years later. Eventually, the county paid for lights and scoreboards and partially paved the entrance way from 77th Street.
Over the years the complex has hosted numerous big events, including tournaments, fundraisers and more. On March 12, 2010, the Washington Freedom, with World Cup and Olympics star Abby Wambach, defeated the Chicago Red Stars, 2-1, in the first women's professional game ever held in Indian River County. The event drew 730 people following a lengthy rain storm that saw volunteers squeegeeing the field just before game time.
The club added professional staff in an effort to train as many players and coaches as possible. The staff continues to grow with the club and higher member expectations. Top teams in the club now travel to college showcase events around the country.
The club has produced numerous players for Florida's Olympic Development Program team and colleges.
In 2017, the club was renamed the Indian River Soccer Academy, reflecting the developmental training received by its players.
The club also formed a foundation to help youngsters play who cannot otherwise afford to do so. You may donate through the Indian River Community Foundation's Indian River Soccer Association Foundation Fund. The annual Bela Nagy Sr. Golf Tournament, named in memory of one of the soccer founders in the county, helps raise money for the foundation.
IRSA, through member fees, volunteers and sponsorships, has maintained what’s now called the Hobart Soccer Complex at a cost of $60,000 to $70,000 a year without government subsidies.
The birth of the fields at Hobart
This article that ran in the Vero Beach Press Journal on IRSA from 9-24-94 reports that the Indian River Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee agrees to create our fields at Hobart.
We have our fields, thanks to you!
1995 groundbreaking at Hobart
Supporters of the Indian River Soccer Association gathered to break ground for the club's Hobart Soccer Complex next to the Indian River County Fairgrounds in 1995. Among those pictured are Summer Corum, Andy, Ted and Robin Williams, Jeff Bolduc and (from right) Rob Campbell, Dick Bird, Dianne Knapp and then-IRSA President Alan Campbell.
In loving memory
On Sept. 20, 2003, St. Edward's School teacher Rosemary Hinton, at Hobart Soccer Complex to watch some of her students play in recreation games, was struck by lightning at killed. At the time, there was no apparent threat of lightning. After her death, IRSA was one of the first youth soccer complexes to install a lightning prediction system thanks to an anonymous gift. In 2016, the George Warren Co. funded a new system.
This full-page advertisement, which ran in the Press Journal in the late 1990s, thanked all the people who helped create IRSA's Hobart Soccer Complex.
In 2011, the Florida Youth Soccer Association named IRSA's TOPSoccer Program (The Outreach Program for Soccer) the best in Florida. Michelle and Joe Duffy, who ran the program, pose with the award. TOPSoccer is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities.
In 2015, IRSA started a L'il Kickers Program for three and four year-olds. Here, Coach Asa Warner passes out trophies to participants.