Fergus Falls YMCA director Cliff Maxwell and assistant Wayne Geary, in 1978, were hoping they could find someone with soccer expertise to lead a fledgling program.
Late one afternoon Geary picked up a copy of the Daily Journal and read a family profile about newcomers to Fergus Falls. The story mentioned Larry Eisinger’s interest in soccer.
That year, 1978, was when Chicago’s Eisinger joined the Fergus Falls Medical Group as a pediatrician. Larry and his wife, Nancy, raised their three children here in succeeding years.
“Wayne asked if I could work with players in the YMCA soccer program, all eight of them,” Larry recalled. “In truth it was the vision of the YMCA director, Cliff Maxwell, and Wayne who got things started.”
By the spring of 1979 they were able to field a full team and started playing teams from other communities.
From this humble beginning, interest in soccer grew rapidly with the youth in Fergus Falls as well as volunteer coaches and organizing efforts of parents.
Added to this was the influx of knowledgeable coaches such as Dennis Mosher, former Olympic and pro player, as well as Rick Dornfeld, former Edina High School and college soccer player.
By 1983 Fergus Falls hosted its first eight-team tournament and by 1984 there was participation by Fergus Falls in the Fargo-Moorhead prep league. This included all Fargo-Moorhead high school teams.
Within a year the state VFW started sponsoring a statewide U-16 summer traveling club tournament.
“The Fergus Falls VFW Post 612 was more than happy to lend a hand in sponsoring the Fergus Falls club team, smartly outfitting players in red, white and blue uniforms,” Larry said.
It wasn’t long after that when Fergus Falls fielded traveling soccer teams at all levels. Included were U-10 through U-16, much like the hockey program.
At first the teams were coed but soon the girls had their own teams, not only during the summer but in the fall prep league as well.
Special thanks, says Eisinger, goes out to the efforts of a former Fergus Falls youth league player, Shannon Derosier. It was the girls/women’s team that received full high school affiliation, years before the boys’/men’s club. That’s because of gender parity and Title 9.
With more traveling teams came the need for more sponsors and volunteer coaches.
The business community and service clubs met sponsor needs, led by ShoreMaster. Daryl Jacobson developed the Cleveland School soccer field site with underwriting from the Fergus Falls VFW.
Coca-Cola bottling provided multicolored T-shirts for the house league and Dick Werner Sports provided soccer spikes and soccer balls. Assistance also came from JK Sports.
The YMCA continued with an indoor soccer program free of charge. The public school system allowed the club to play at Cleveland School and developed the soccer complex east of the middle school. Eventually, the American Legion developed the fields at DeLagoon Park.
The soccer club brought in expertise from multiple sources to train coaches. This expertise came from the University of Minnesota soccer coaching staff, Minnesota Kicks professional team staff and the U.S. Army coaching staff.
The original soccer coaching trio of Eisinger, Mosher and Dornfeld was replaced by eager new faces such as Lee Krueger, Greg Boole, Bob Halvorson, Wayne Horgen, Rod Spidahl, Dick Pickett, Rich Jones and Mark Stolpman, to name a few.
“As the traveling program grew, so did the spring and fall house leagues with up to 400 players,” Larry says. “It got to the point where the program had to move out of the YMCA and into its own association.”
Thus came about the Fergus Falls Soccer Association.
Eisinger will be recognized for his soccer leadership later this summer when he will be inducted, along with five others, into the Fergus Falls Chamber of Commerce Sports Hall of Fame.
He truly deserves this honor.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears in the Weekend Edition.