Converse sneakers and tie-dye shirts have given way to sleek soccer boots and stylish jerseys, but the game is still the same for the Cutler Ridge Soccer Club.
The club, founded in 1966, celebrated its 50th anniversary recently at Cutler Ridge Park. Food and fun were enjoyed by about 700 attendees, but most were on hand to honor the past and eye the present at a soccer showcase.
The showcase featured 14 teams, ages 9 through 15, and a coaches’ game. Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy Bell, and council members Sue Ellen Loyzelle and Roger Coriat presented the club with a plaque. The Cutler Ridge Soccer Club made presentations to at least 40 individuals responsible for building and maintaining the program throughout the decades.
“I was a team mom for five years, watching my son chase butterflies instead of soccer balls,” Bell said. “He learned so much from this program. I have always felt that Cutler Ridge soccer was the heart of Cutler Bay. Not to disparage the other wonderful organizations, but it really truly was.”
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Bell and others pointed to the many improvements the town has made at the park, allowing the club to thrive.
“This is the Cutler Ridge community,” Bell said. “We weren’t sure how it was going to go, but I’m happy to say we were able to provide lighting . . . an interlocal agreement with the school so that Cutler Ridge Soccer can use this. . . . It’s known throughout the county as a premier organization. It really puts the kids first. They teach kids how to feel good about themselves while they succeed.’’
Wayne Martin, who incorporated Cutler Ridge Soccer Club, was honored with a plaque. Members of the club’s first team were also on hand, including former vice president George Parrado, who had children in the league. Parrado was a player and coach for 44 years with Cutler Ridge Soccer Club. Barbara Penrod, who served as park manager for 28 years, was another honored guest.
“It’s definitely a fixture in Cutler Bay,” said Deborah Ruiz, registrar of Cutler Ridge Soccer Club. “I worked at the park as a teenager and going through college. I saw the program grow and always said that I wanted to be a part of it. The second my kid was old enough to play soccer, I did it and he loves it there. The program itself this year has really changed. We hired a full-time director of coaching; our competitive teams are some of the best in the state now. The under-18 boys team went from being in the hundreds to being ranked No. 8 in the state.”
The league features about 350 players in its competitive division and 300 in its recreational program.
Ruiz said the club is rare in its offering of a middle school recreational program. She also said that the town and park staff’s effort to improve the facility has had an impact on the players, who can feel like professionals when playing under the lights.
“For Cutler Ridge Soccer, 50 years is quite a milestone and they do so much for the kids,” Loyzelle said. “It’s so important for health and wellness for the kids to keep them busy, especially with this childhood obesity epidemic we have going on.”
Ruiz said the club is looking into starting programs for disabled children this fall. She also said that it is seeking grants to make its parks more handicap accessible.