Sports

Soccer dad

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Karl Grosch comes at the sport of soccer from a different angle than most Americans. Grosch spent his first 26 years in the German town of Darmstadt where soccer was king, queen, prince, duchess and every other royal term you can think of.

So when he came to the United States in 1951, Grosch couldn’t believe the lack of opportunities American youth had to get involved in soccer.

“It was kind of hard,” the 78-year-old Twin Lakes resident said in a strong German accent. “At that time, they didn’t have enough. There were a lot of baseball and football types who didn’t know too much about the game.”

That is when Grosch’s decades long crusade of bringing youth soccer to the forefront in the United States got its start. Since coming over from the state of Hesse in Germany, Grosch has spent countless hours volunteering as a coach, was a member of the Federal Way Soccer Association board and served as the president of the Washington State Youth Soccer Association from 1971-77. During that time, Grosch was instrumental in moving the association forward from a volunteer-run organization to a professional agency with an office and dedicated staff. He is also a member of their Hall of Fame.

Grosch also co-authored the first United States Youth Soccer Association’s (USYSA) constitution, by-laws, rules and regulations. This document led to the unification of youth soccer programs nationwide and the official formulation of the National Youth Soccer Association, which later became the USYSA.

Grosch’s longtime youth soccer advocacy is being recognized at 1 p.m. on the east side of Steel Lake Park in Federal Way tomorrow at a ceremony to unveil Karl Grosch Field. The new soccer-only field has been resurfaced with state-of-the-art synthetic Field Turf, which is the same product installed at Husky Stadium and Seahawks Stadium.

“Soccer is such a great sport,” Grosch said. “I think it has become popular because every kid can play it. There is no limit on size, weight or even handicap.”

Funding for the new $800,000 turf installation project came from three different sources — the city of Federal Way, the Federal Way Soccer Association and the state of Washington. A state parks and recreation grant paid for $400,000, the city allocated $300,000 and the soccer association chipped in $100,000 of its money, according to Kurt Reuter, a superintendent with the Federal Way Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

“We are very excited about getting this field open,” he said. “Karl is quite a guy. He has been a great volunteer for the city.”

Currently, the Federal Way Soccer Association is responsible for 2,250 kids on 188 teams and have helped resurface fields at Sacajawea Middle School and Decatur High School to Field Turf, along with the new Steel Lake facility.

“Those (grass) fields just get all torn up,” Grosch said. “And with the artificial Field Turf, you don’t have any maintenance costs and you can play year round.”

Naming the field after Grosch turned into a little bit of a bureaucratic battle. The Federal Way Parks and Recreation Commission and chairman C.T. Purdom recommended to the city council to name the field after Grosch.

“I was on the Parks and Recreation Commission for nine-plus years and retired at the beginning of this year and they wanted to do something for me,” Grosch said. “And I already got too many plaques hanging on the wall. So they decided to name the field after me.”

But Federal Way city code states that you have to be dead to have a park named after you.

“They decided that a field is not a park — just within a park,” he said. “So that’s how they circumvented that city ordinance.”

Tomorrow’s field opening will be more than just a naming ceremony for Grosch. Before the 1 p.m. dedication ceremony, Grosch’s grandson Nik’s 10-and-under team will play an exhibition game and following the festivities his granddaughter’s 13-and-under team will take to the field.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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