How it all began....
In 1971, there were two men with a common dream to teach the youth of Hazlet the game of soccer. Andy and Will Rafferty began drumming up support for a sport that most Americans knew very little about. Shortly thereafter, the two became four, when Karl H. Brand and Chuck Robus joined them in this vision. Many nights were spent in the basement of the Brand home located at 18 Frances Place, where the four planned the advent of this foreign sport. Within a short period of time they had received permits to use the school fields at Leocadia Court, Middle Road, Union Avenue, Beers Street and Holy Family Church for the children to use to play soccer. Thus, the Hazlet Youth Soccer Association (HYSA) was born.
An undertaking the size of starting a soccer league was more than these dedicated men could do alone. To ensure the success of the program, and to guarantee that the children involved received the best possible instruction, they called upon their friends Jack Draijer, Bob Orban, Chris Orban and Bob Nielson, all of whom had the same desire and enthusiasm as them.
The school fields were not set up to play soccer, so portable goals were made by the above group. The goals were set up and taken down for each game day. In these formative years, the league consisted of only boys, and each year they would have a season-ending pool party at the Brand household. One of the most important rules instituted by these men was that each child would play a minimum amount of time in each game - a rule that is still practiced today within our REC program where every child gets to play at least half of every game.
Throughout the next couple of years the program grew in popularity, so much so that in 1974 the Township received a government Green Acres grant to purchase 15 acres of woodlands off of Middle Road on Green Acres Drive which now constitutes the soccer complex. Several youth organizations petitioned for use of this property, but it's primary use was dedicated to Hazlet Soccer. The property, which was a farmland and woods, needed a great deal of work before they could be considered playable soccer fields. There were volunteers and there were no work deposits required at the time. Fields 1 and 2 were finished first, and field 3 followed.
To maintain the fields, the Association needed to purchase a tractor. There was one at Forbes in Freehold for $1500, however, they only had $500 which they used as a down payment. To raise the remainder of the money the first soccer dance was held. The dance was at the West Keansburg Fire House and over 500 people attended. All the work was done with volunteers, including the cooking.
Bill Sharp and Jim Stephens operated the tractor and devoted many hours to maintain the fields. Jim enjoyed the tractor so much he took advantage of any opportunity to operate it! Whenever heavy work had to be done and additional help was required either our neighbor the farmer Lagana or Tony Boehler who worked for the Township would always pitch in. They would donate their time and whatever equipment was required.
Labor Day 1975 was the official grand opening of the soccer fields. A Scottish bag pipe band led the entire organization from the Hazlet Swim Club to the Complex. All had a great time in spite of the heat which was 95 degrees in the shade.
As many as 1,000 children were involved in the program after the opening of the fields. To accomodate all of them, games were played all day Saturday and Sunday. On Saturdays after the games many families would stay as late as 10:30pm and the parents would socialize while the children watch the drive-in move (the now existing Costco site).
In 1975 Bob Orban got word of a building in Secaucus that the Association could have. They only catch was that it had to be disassembled and removed by whomever wanted it. Two men joined Boband went to Secaucus in two pickup trucks. They took apart the building with Jim Stephens numbering each peice as they went and reassembled it at the soccer complex. Our snack stand was born.
We had a snack stand but to complete the job we needed water and sewer lines. National Amusements (who owned the drive-in) would not grant an easement to run lines through their property. Once again the Lagana family helped by granting a permanent easement through their property so that the services could be run fro mthe snack sand to Route 35.
In 1975 the first tournament was held at the Beers Street School. The Tournament was made up of Recreation All-Star teams and town such as Chatham and Kearny attended. The Recreational All-Stars led to the the first travel teams.
In the early days the people associated with Hazlet Soccer were not only concerned with their own community, but with their neighbors as well. Andy Rafferty and Ed Connor helped Keansburg and Union Beach set up their programs and on numerous occasions would give clinics for their coaches and players.
Girls were finally allowed to play around 1976. Only women coaches were allowed to coach the girls. Ann Draijer, Flo Jascur, Claire Sharp, Mary Goodman and Sue Parsell did an excellent job.
For a period of 5 years on Columbus Day weekend Hazlet would send teams to Bridgewater Massachusetts then the following year Bridgewater came to Hazlet. The teams were made up of division all-stars and each age group, under 6 to under 14 were represented. The players and their families would stay with the families of the competing teams.
The first travel tournament was held on the 4th of July weekend in 1978. Sixteen teams in four age groups competed. Some of the teams in attendance came from Union, Rahway, Elizabeth and New York. Through the years whenever work had to be done or there was a fundraising event such as dances, participation by the membership of Hazlet Soccer has been outstanding.
Subsequently, the organization, now know as Hazlet United Soccer Association (HUSA), continued to grow, attracting more children and more dedicated volunteers, whose focus and primary goal is "selfless and unconditional volunteerism". The complex now consists of 6 fields - 2 of which have lights. The club currently consists of a Peanuts Program, a Rec Program of approzimately 28 teams and a Travel Program of approximately 22 teams. In addition, we have an Indoor Program that runs from Jan. to March, and also host 2 tournaments every year for our children. This shows that the club is not just an organization......it's a family.