East Side Kickers are a Heights institution
See a soccer field full of kids in the Heights and chances are you’re watching an East Side Kickers team in action. The gold and black jerseys have been a staple on local fields for nearly 30 years.
Currently, the East Side Kickers travel soccer club is 11 teams and 150 players strong. Part of the statewide soccer organization, Ohio Youth Soccer Association North, or OYSAN, the Kickers have been a Heights institution since 1983.
“Some of our coaches played with the East Side Kickers as kids and they are excited to give back that experience to a new generation of players,” said Sean Sullivan, ESK boys director of coaching.
Sullivan, recently named by Cleveland Scene as Cleveland’s “Soccer Sensei,” is the varsity soccer coach of Heights High and has been committed to ESK for over a decade. His protégé, Robbie Helfgott, an ESK alum, was named ESK girls director of coaching in December.
“My goal is to continue ESK’s tradition of high-level soccer training and also to expose more and more kids to our club,” said Helfgott. The Heights High girls varsity soccer coach has been with ESK three years and has taken the current U14 boys team to two league championships, and ESK's first State Cup entry this spring.
“Player development is paramount in our club, but our mission is also about making competitive soccer accessible to all kids in our community,” said Lisa Manzari, ESK board president.
Last year alone ESK awarded nearly $5,000 in player scholarships. “We are very proud of our scholarship program and couldn’t do it without the support of our families, local businesses and community members,” Manzari said.
On Saturday, May 1, ESK will hold its Fifth Annual Soccer Fest and Fundraiser at the Cleveland Heights Community Center. Carnival games, food, dancing, raffles, a silent auction and, of course, soccer, will fill the gym from 6–9 p.m. All proceeds support player scholarships.
“It’s an exciting time in our club’s history with Sean and Robbie as our directors of coaching. We’re also very fortunate to have extremely talented and dedicated coaches,” Manzari said.
In the winter the Kickers play at the newly renovated Force Indoor Sports complexes at both Richmond and Bedford Heights. “Most of our teams won their division this winter and we’ve been able to add new teams and players,” said Helfgott.
ESK wants to expand its reach in the community to add even more players and families.
“We’re grooming great soccer players, but we’re also building strong community,” added Manzari. “We have families who leave the program and then return after joining other clubs. One parent told me that it was a breath of fresh air to return to ESK!”
With Spring just beginning, ESK is already gearing up for the fall season. Tryouts are scheduled in May at Forest Hill Park. Boys will try out on Monday, May 17, and girls’ tryouts are Wednesday, May 19.
For more information on the ESK Soccer Fest, player tryouts or to support ESK, visit: http://www.eastsidekickers.org/ or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carole Boyd plays soccer with Heights Mom Soccer. She has a daughter who plays for the East Side Kickers and another who plays varsity soccer on the Heights High team.