By Ray Alley, Publisher
Most people who will read this story never heard of Randell Farley, but if you’ve been involved in youth soccer at least 25-30 years you surely knew someone like him.
Farley passed away in mid-December at the age of 61 in Gardendale, Ala. Sarah A. McCarty wrote about his passing on al.com, and told how he and his wife Sheri, helped bring soccer to Gardendale more than 25 years ago.
The term “Soccer Mom” had not yet been coined when Randy and his wife volunteered to help the local Parks and Rec Department take their soccer league from all indoor play to outdoor fields that did not exist at the time.
“It was probably more than 25 years ago, sometime in the mid-1980s,” Stan Hogeland, former Parks and Rec Director told McCarty. “At that time there were no soccer fields in the city. Soccer was just in its infant stages in popularity in the United States.”
The Farleys, who had sons who were interested in playing soccer, founded the Gardendale Soccer Association. They first played games on “the old men’s softball field,” which is now the Bragg Middle School baseball field.
A piece of property on Mitchell Hill Road was chosen as the site of the city’s very first soccer field.
“Randy and Sheri actually laid the sod for the first soccer field,” said Dale Hyche, current Parks and Rec director. “They laid two tractor trailer loads of it up there.”
Eventually soccer continued to grow and the city built the Kenneth A. Clemmons Recreation Complex, which included two soccer fields. In 2007, Field #1 was renamed “Farley Field” in honor of Randy and Sheri.
As soccer grew in communities where a soccer ball had never bounced before, soccer parents like the Farleys made similar contributions to get the games started.
The large soccer complexes did not exist back then. There were no paid staffs to level the fields, pick up the rocks, sow the grass and keep it cut. No one was paid to line the fields, and many times teams got to those fields early on Saturday morning to find no lines at all.
And who went to the store and came back with a five-pound sack of flour and poured out the lines from a Dixie cup? Crooked. yes, but they worked.
Soccer Moms and Soccer Dads like Randy and Sheri Farley did that. They made it happen in their home communities.
Today the youth game is more organized with Executive Directors, Directors of Coaching, Trainers and paid coaches. It’s a lot different, and one can argue, much better than the old days.
I guess it is, but there is something missing. Call it community spirit, and the contributions of parent volunteers.
No, I never personally knew Randy Farley. Never been to Gardendale, Ala., and never heard of him or his family before I read his obituary.
But I knew people like him. Those of us who have been around the game long enough have all known people like him.
The game is better for having people like Randy and Sheri Farley care about soccer in Gardendale, Ala. and in the communities where we all live and often take things for granted.
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