Alive & Kickin’
South Central Soccer Academy Still Thriving More Than 30 Years Later
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Amy Payne
The fact that South Central Soccer Academy is the largest privately-owned youth soccer club in the state of Indiana is rather impressive considering the organization’s humble beginnings more than 30 years ago, and the obstacles its leaders faced along the way.
Back in the late 1970s, a small group of southside parents formed the Center Grove Soccer Club (CGSC) with a little help from the Center Grove school system. At that time, the kids involved were using the soccer fields at North Grove and West Grove elementary schools, but after a few years, membership had begun to grow so rapidly that the club’s leaders realized they’d soon need bigger facilities for practices and league games.
Luckily for the CGSC, a local resident named Linda Campbell had become president, and by 1983 Linda had worked out a deal with Center Grove High School, whereby CGSC players had first rights to the high school’s soccer and softball fields. Membership expanded to around 1,500 annually by the late 1980s, and the club had grown to include a few travel teams.
Despite CGSC’s agreement with the high school, Linda would often find herself in heated disagreements with the school’s baseball and football teams over field use.
“Soccer was still kind of small-time back then – it was always a fight with those teams to have areas for the kids to play soccer, and even though she had first rights, the baseball and football coaches would take over,” says Steve Campbell, current executive director of the club and Linda’s son. “It wasn’t pleasant at times – she was this five-foot-five lady fighting off these big burly football and baseball coaches so her kids could play soccer.”
In 1991 board member David Tucker eyed some land along Whiteland Road that currently serves as the main headquarters for the club (now known as South Central Soccer Academy after the 2008 merging of its two travel soccer programs, Center Grove Travel and South Central Select). To Tucker and his fellow board members, the spot’s 44 acres seemed like a no-brainer for the club’s new home, but fresh obstacles had yet to rear their heads.
“The board members couldn’t get a bank loan without some sort of personal guarantee, despite the club’s good history and good membership numbers,” says Campbell, who has served as executive director for four years. “My mom and four other board members personally guaranteed their homes to purchase the land. Not many people around here know that. And they were desperately trying to raise funds to begin with.”
By 1993, after years of fundraising, donations and sponsorship campaigns, the club finally had its own facilities, which today include fields, a concession building, restrooms and two shelters. In 2010 a 10,000-square-foot indoor complex was added to the grounds for clinics, games, training and awards ceremonies.
“It was really her field of dreams – she was willing to do whatever she could to make it happen,” Campbell says of Linda, who served as president for 15 years and for whom the club’s field was named in the spring of 1993. “Twenty-five years later, that dream lives on thanks to her and those board members like David Tucker who did the hard work to make it happen. I can’t thank those folks, and our members, enough for what we’ve been able to achieve.”
Today South Central Soccer Academy offers multiple outdoor and indoor soccer programs for Hoosier kids, teens and adults. The organization’s TOPSoccer program was formed to offer free, structured soccer in the spring and fall for kids aged four and up with mental or physical disabilities.
“You don’t have to be from Center Grove to be part of our club – you can be from anywhere,” Campbell adds. “We truly are a place for everyone to play soccer.”
For more information including a registration form, a listing of soccer programs and leagues, a volunteer page and info on scholarships for families in need, visit southcentralsocceracademy.com.