Any anniversary is worth the celebration and all that it entails. A decade of growth and excellence is certainly cause for such festivity. But for Westside United FC, it is much more than that.
Westside United FC is a premier level soccer club based in Avon that was originated in 2002 by Dustin Ottesen and John Case. They recently celebrated their 10th anniversary and are proud to honor their commitment to excellence and dedication to serving the children in and around the Avon community.
Children ages 8 to 19 have the opportunity to play on one of the U8-U19 travel teams. The Junior Academy, for children ages 4 to 8, is more recreational but still involves fundamentals through training and drills.
The Hendricks County-based organization originally only attracted players from the local community. But now its outreach stretches toward Central Indiana and beyond. In its short existence, it has grown from four travel teams to 30.
Given its success and positive reputation, Westside United is becoming one of the top soccer clubs in Indiana. And the emphasis on developing fundamentals and dedication to coaching are the reasons for its continued growth.
“I really think it’s about our coaches,” Westside United Director of Coaching Joshua George said. “Westside United hierarchy states that the program formula is in the hands of the directors and the coaches, the ones that know the most about the game of soccer. That formula has helped us to be successful by developing players from the youngest ages on up.”
George has been with the organization since 2003 and now it’s his job to continue to grow the organization.
“I started here as a coach, then became the director in 2008,” George said. “I was working the full-time position, but only on a part-time basis and the fact that we were so successful was pretty remarkable. I recently was hired full-time, so I quit my teaching job to focus solely on soccer and the growth of the program.”
As for his responsibilities, they are numerous.
“Now I am the full-time director of coaching, so I am in charge of the entire program in terms of coaching and player development, curriculum, basically the soccer side of things,” he said. “Also, the direction of the program and where we want to take it in the future. I am the guy out there every day, the face of the program, in terms of leading all our players, coaches, parents in the right direction.”
Westside United estimates about 400 children of various ages are playing on the travel teams and another 200 are playing on the Junior Academy teams. Both numbers are expected to continue to grow.
Bruce Kopp, a parent of two Westside United players, said, “We found out about them through word of mouth and the more soccer you play, the more you learn about other organizations nearby. Some soccer parents mentioned to us, based on their talent levels, that they (our sons) should try out.”
Kopp’s sons — Jonathan, 16, and Justin, 13 — have now played at Westside United for about five years.
“I think it’s got all the elements; coaching, talent level of players, and the fundamentals,” Kopp said. “The consistency of the leadership ... John (Case) puts his heart into it. He identifies some of the top people in terms of organization and coaching. I think he goes beyond the technical elements of the game. It’s about true character and vision and identifying that it’s not just about playing the game well, it’s about getting along with your teammates and learning life’s lessons.”
Kopp said he’s impressed with the new director of the organization.
“Joshua is an excellent communicator, very thorough, he gives you great feedback and a good sense of where you stand and he’s just good with the boys,” he said. “He connects with them, as do many of the coaches. It’s turned out to be a great experience for us from beginning to end, so far. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of it, a privilege, and knowing how youth sports endeavors can be, this has been a total joy.”
Westside United has produced an estimated 300 players that have played at all levels of college, as well as multiple players involved with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) on the state, regional, and national level.
This includes Cassidy Blacha (U9-U15 teams) and Stephanie Burdsall (U13-U15 teams), members of the Indiana ODP team that recently went to Berlin, Germany, to play in a soccer tournament hosted by the Berliner-Fussball Association (Berlin Soccer Association).
Blacha credits Westside United with helping her make the Indiana ODP team.
“I moved here and didn’t know anyone,” she said. “Josh and the coaches helped me one on one and were very supportive all the time. They helped me a lot to get to ODP. I really like it. It’s a good club.”
Westside United has produced current and future Indiana University players Kyle Sparks (U9-U19 teams and current member of the IU soccer team) and Andrew Oliver (U14-U16 teams, currently on the U20 men’s national team).
Sparks credits Westside United with helping him develop his skills on the field and in his life.
“Growing up with Westside was good for my development,” he said. “I learned my leadership skills. It helped my competitive drive to do more, achieve more. I think it’s a big reason why I’m playing at the collegiate level now and gave me aspirations to go even further, so hopefully I can get there.”
Westside United has also developed a few other notable players, including one recently drafted by a MLS team.
Sam Fuller, who played for the U15-U18 teams, averaged 48 goals a season and now plays for IUPUI. Jack Griffith, a member of the ODP 95 regional team, is only a sophomore, but has given a verbal commitment to play for IU. And Carl Woszczynski, goalkeeper for the Westside United U16-U18 teams, went to the University of Alabama-Birmingham and was drafted by the Chicago Fire in the MLS Supplemental Draft.
Westside United to date has 15 state championships, 23 state runner-ups, several state semi-finalists, one regional finalist, two regional semi-finalists, and several Challenge Cup and President’s Cup champions, finalist, and semi-finalist.
As for the anniversary, George sees it as time to reflect on its success, but hopes to continue its work the same way the organization started.
“I think it’s a time to reflect and look back on how we have grown as a club, on the hard work and the dedication from everyone,” George said. “It’s such a successful program and it makes you proud to think that you were a part of that.
“I like to tell people our club was founded on being blue collar and I really think that is something we need to continue through the years and always keep in mind that we are a blue collar soccer club. The hard work will keep us going in the right direction and on the right path, I think that’s what makes us unique.”
To help continue its success, the non-profit Westside United is hosting a fundraiser. A charity golf outing at Prestwick Country Club in Avon is July 24.