NCSA?to celebrate 25th anniversary this year

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Northern Chautauqua Soccer Association (NCSA). The idea for its inception came to Nelson Cupello and Jim Enser in the fall of 1987.

Enser had begun coaching men’s JV soccer at SUNY Fredonia in 1981. Three years later, Cupello was hired as men’s varsity coach. By 1987, both men had young families, and those families were the inspiration for their dream.

At the time, Nelson and Molly Cupello had three children: Nelson, Jr., age 9, Timothy, age 5, and Ryan, age 2 years. Jim and Diane Ensers’ daughter Jennifer was nearly 2 years old, and their son Benjamin had not yet been born.

Although their children were still quite young, Enser and Cupello could envision the difference an early start in learning their favorite sport would make. As coaches, they understood the importance of a program that encourages player development from an early age and continues through the teen years. The Fredonia-Pomfret Recreation Department already had a fall soccer program in place for 8-12 year olds, but Enser and Cupello had become aware that most area soccer programs had summer seasons. A summer season provided greater opportunities for young players. NCSA held its first season in the summer of 1988, as a result of the plans and actions of these two coaches, with the assistance of Jere Wysong and a few dedicated volunteers. Summer recreational soccer runs from mid-June until the end of July, typically six weeks in duration. Over the past 25 years, hundreds of others have volunteered their time and energy to make this summer league possible for NCSA.

In its first year, NCSA registered approximately 150 children. The program was so popular that it experienced phenomenal growth, registering 450 players in the second year, 750 in the third year and 900 in the fourth. Initially, playing fields were set up at SUNY Fredonia. Eventually, the growth of the organization, along with the impact of SUNY building projects, led to a move to the Fredonia High School campus, where the fields are now located.

The primary goal of NCSA has always been to teach children soccer skills in a fun format. Good sportsmanship and physical fitness are also emphasized. The development of players is seen to encompass physical skills, social skills and character. All players are guaranteed playing time, so that no child spends the game sitting “the bench” – or usually, the blanket.

In 1990, Cupello and Enser, with the help of Southern Tier regional commissioner Louise Freeman and St. Bonaventure men’s soccer coach George Perry, participated in the creation of the Southern Tier Travel Soccer League (STTSL). NCSA sponsored one of the four regional clubs (NC Concord) in this league for highly competitive players. The spring travel season includes weekend games from the end of April through the end of June, preceded by months of training. Currently, clubs from Jamestown, Randolph, Bemus Point, Falconer, Westfield, Bradford, Pa., and Olean participate in STTSL, along with NC Concord.

In 1991, Nelson Cupello returned to his hometown of Rochester to coach men’s soccer at his alma mater, Monroe Community College. During his tenure as head coach at SUNY Fredonia, he had led the Blue Devils to five consecutive SUNYAC appearances, winning or sharing the championship three times. Fredonia appeared in the NCAA Tournament four out of the five years and lost twice in the semifinals. His MCC teams have competed in Regionals for 16 consecutive years, winning the Regionals in 1995, 2002 and 2004. Coach Cupello has been recognized by his peers as Region III Coach of the Year six times and Northeast Coach of the Year twice. He was recently honored with the National Soccer Coaches Association Division 1 Junior College 2012 National Coach of the Year Award.

When Cupello moved on, Enser continued as president of NCSA, filling many roles, including administrator, referee and coach. He recalls measuring and setting up many fields of different sizes, using tape measures and string, even painting field lines late in the evening by the light of his car headlights. The late George McNaughton was the first to volunteer as field coordinator in 1995, a time-consuming job with the burgeoning number of players registered. Janey Wagner came on board as vice president in 1991 and in 1994, became president, to allow Enser to focus on coaching and coach training. Wagner was replaced by Jim Pelletter in 1995 when she took maternity leave pending the birth of her fourth child. At that time, Pelletter had no idea that he would continue in the position for ten years, the longest held office in the organization to date. Candy Korzeniewski, who had served the organization in many capacities, from division coordinator to referee coordinator to vice president, assumed the position of president when Pelletter retired following his many years of service. Mike Ferguson was the next to act as NCSA president. After Ferguson retired from his post, Cathy Cruver served as president for several years. Betsy Dixon-Lang took on the role of president of NCSA in 2009. Many organizers, such as German Lesmes, referee coordinator, continue to volunteer their time for NCSA after many, many years of involvement.

Twenty-five years ago, two young parents from our community decided to turn the dream of a soccer league for their children into reality. Hundreds of individuals assisted in attaining that goal, from coordinators to board members to coaches to referees and thousands of children have benefited from the realization of their dream. NCSA is now the largest youth sports organization in the Northern Chautauqua County area. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, NCSA will be holding a banquet for current and past board members and coordinators on March 2, as well as sponsoring a free player and coach training weekend with instructors from the Challenger Sports British Soccer Camp staff to kick off the summer season. Players will sport jerseys with the number 25 on their sleeves, and a new logo contest will be held to commemorate the anniversary celebration, as well.