A Short History of FCYSL
How It All Started
League founder Steve Weeman’s eldest son, Jeff, had played one season of recreation soccer at the Decatur-Dekalb YMCA (DDY) when they moved to Fayetteville. There was no soccer here, so Jeff played a couple of seasons in Clayton County. During the baseball season, Steve spoke with several parents who did not want their kids playing football. He suggested that they try soccer, and through that connection the Fayette County Youth Soccer League was started by Steve and Dennis Kemp.
There were only five teams that first season; four under 8’s and one under 10. The U10 team played with the Peachtree City league which had been started the season before. The original coaches were Steve, Jim Seeby, Gary Green, LD Lowe and Al Guise.
Using two fields at what is now McCurry North the games were a very laid back affair. The coaches knew nothing about the game since none of them had played before. Only a few of the kids had played before either. The basic attitude was that as long as the kids were kicking the ball and happy, everything was fine. On game day Rose Green had two tables set up with home made baked goods and cokes for sale. That was the extent of the concession stand.
The big draw for the parents was that kids got to play at least half of each game. At that time in baseball a player was only guaranteed one at bat and one inning on the field, so many did not really get to play. In the new soccer league they got to play a lot more. There was a lot of kick and run, and not a whole lot of “soccer”, but at that time it worked well for the community and led to rapid growth of the league.
Jeff’s team was always the pioneering group. They were the oldest team as the years went by. Steve became one of the few certified referees in the area and it was not uncommon for him to coach his team and then spend the next few hours refereeing the rest of the games.
The Start of Select Soccer
None of the pioneering group knew anything about select soccer. They had an under 10 team that had not lost a game in two years. Venturing out for more competition they entered a tournament hosted by DDY. Expecting to beat everyone as usual, they were in for a big surprise. Not only did they not win, they were beaten badly.
Steve asked about the kind of teams they were playing. When he was told “Select Teams” he knew he had something new to shoot for. The following year he got the best players he could find in the area and started a select team, the Fayetteville Lightning.
The following year, Georgia Soccer changed select teams from 2-year age groups to single year age groups. Steve knew that none of the leagues in the area had the kind of players it would take to compete under those conditions. He contacted Gary Nidiffer of the Clayton League and Randy Wortman of the Peachtree City League and convinced them to pool their best talent and form what was then known as the South Metro Lightning Soccer Club. All of the players were registered through FCYSL, though the players and coaches came from all three leagues.
The now famous red and yellow colors of Lightning were chosen because no other club in Georgia at the time had that color combination. Over the years this club has had numerous teams play in Regional and National competitions.
FCYSL started with two fields. What we now know as Field 1 was the U8 field and Field 2 was the U10 field. As the kids got older the U12 field was built to accommodate them. That’s now known as Kemp Field or Field 4. Cumbie field was next. It had the profound name of the U14 field.
Field 3 was built on swampland filled in by dumping dirt that was being dug out for the grading of the Banks Crossing Shopping Center. The dirt was leveled by Mr. “Hoss” Couch, a county worker who’s house sat at what is now the parking lot beside Field 5. On Saturdays, after the games, parents would walk the cleared area and pick up rocks and sticks so other volunteers could eventually lay sod.
Field 7 was the last one built at McCurry North. It was developed as a project of the Georgia National Guard in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers. The first game played there was in 1990 and featured a team made up mostly of Lightning players going against a team from Germany.
It was not unusual to drive by the fields at McCurry North and see Steve Weeman and Buddy Cumbie out mowing, spreading fertilizer or sand, and many times repairing the irrigation system. On Saturdays after games on Kemp Field, a tall thin man with a shovel could be seen cleaning out the ditch so the water could drain. This was Mike Leonard and the ditch became quickly known as “Leonard’s Ditch”.
In those days, coaches had to line their own fields before games, at first with lime and later with spray paint. The parking lot was unpaved and there were no lights. When the league first put lights in they used poles donated by Georgia Power. The poles were not quite long enough, so the concrete pillars were built to provide more height and to give a solid base for the lights.
When fields were closed because of rain or during the off-season we had our own security system to keep people off of them. The aforementioned “Hoss” helped us out with that. He was a pretty big person and people would think twice about arguing with him. It was in his honor that Field 3 was named Couch Field.
A lot of the amenities we take for granted now were developed very slowly. For a long time the driveway was not paved. Coming along Highway 54 you could easily tell when you were getting near to the fields because of the dust cloud in the air over the parking lot. The most dangerous moment from not having pavement was when an old pickup truck parked overlooking Kemp field suddenly slid off of the parking lot, slid down the hill and rammed into one of the concrete light pillars. Luckily no one was hurt.