STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
One of the oldest youth soccer organizations in Central Texas, based in the Highland Lakes, was started in the late 1970s by two kids who just wanted to play.
There was no supporting infrastructure, as soccer was not very popular in the United States at the time, but that didn’t stop a young Bud Spaar and Bill Worley, pioneers of the Granite Country Youth Soccer Association, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.
Back then, as Spaar and his mother, Donnalee Brown, went door to door to round up players, Worley persuaded his father, William Worley Sr., to be a coach.
They didn’t have a grandiose plan, but the Worleys, Spaars, and a handful of families who answered the doors and headed for the makeshift soccer fields laid the groundwork for an association that thrives today. The association’s first team had 11 players; today, Granite Country averages 550 players ages 4-19 each season.
“Granite Country has always been true to its mission: to promote the sport of soccer in this great community for the children and to the benefit of children,” said longtime coach and official Bob Fallis.
IN THE BEGINNING
Soccer didn’t take off in those early years; it was step by step.
The Spaar family moved to Marble Falls in 1977. They owned and operated a bait shop at the corner of U.S. 281 and RR 1431 for a number of years.
Bud Spaar loved soccer, more so, it first appeared, than his new hometown, which lacked a team.
Undaunted, he and his family created posters inviting kids to play the sport then set off into the neighborhoods to recruit.
At about the same time, Bill Worley and his friends were trying to start a team themselves. They told Bill Worley Sr. about their plans, and he told them he knew very little about the sport except what he absorbed watching Manchester United play while he was stationed in Germany in the 1950s with the U.S. Air Force.
The kids were adamant, however, and the former athlete, knowing how important sports could be for youths, went to the one source he could think of to learn about soccer: the Marble Falls Public Library.
Eventually, Bill Sr. made his way to a bookstore and purchased a how-to guide on starting a youth soccer association.
In 1979, Marble Falls fielded its first team, which played in the 14-and-under age group, wore red jerseys, and called themselves the Red Devils after the Manchester United football club of England.
Worley, Stacy Rudd, Robert Womack, Jimmy Mallory, Willie Armagost, Troy Bell, the Conelys, and Kimi O’Connor Wilson were the team’s first players.
“We were good athletes,” Bill Worley Jr. said. “Being big and strong always helps in soccer. It helps to be fast and in control. Just being a good athlete, you can pick up soccer quickly.”
By the time the association registered with the state of Texas on Sept. 2, 1980, it had two other teams. Members set the Granite Country Youth Soccer Association bylaws, and Bill Sr. became its first president.
The Red Devils practiced at the old football field on RR 1431, located on what is now the Marble Falls Elementary School campus, with the blessing of former Marble Falls Independent School District coach Roy Woerner.
With no other local teams, the three Marble Falls squads traveled to Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Austin for games. Back in the Highland Lakes, they would play each other.
In 1980, the Capital Area Youth Soccer Association invited GCYSA to join. While the local teams struggled that year, they began to excel the following, Worley said.
That’s because of how Bill Sr. coached. As a former football and basketball player, the elder Worley understood tempo and the fast break. He told his players to kick the ball hard and far. He placed his fast athletes at forward and midfield to outrun opponents. Rudd was the striker, and Wilson was the sweeper for one reason, Worley said.
“(Wilson’s) job was, as soon as she made contact, to kick it as far as she could,” he said. “We were athletes all over the place, and (the opponents) were skilled soccer players.”
In 1983, GCYSA struck a deal with the city of Marble Falls and the Marble Falls Housing Authority to turn land in a flood zone in the middle of the city into soccer fields. Two years later, trees and rocks were cleared to create The Greens soccer fields, located at 1100 Sixth St.
By then, the association was drawing about 150 players a year, coach Bob Fallis said.
“Coaches picked up rocks for years,” he said regarding the field condition. “Every time it rained, more rocks would show up.”
During the rest of the 1980s until recently, Fallis guided several Granite Country teams into the Western District tournament and watched others perform well there, too. He estimates GCYSA squads have earned about 12 Western District titles and five state championships since the association began.
He led his 2011 Lady Eagles 2000 team, consisting of players ages 11 and younger, to a first-place tie at the U.S. Specialty Sports Association national championship.
As they got older, those athletes played other sports as well. Not every GCYSA player pursues soccer in middle school and high school, but the skills they develop transfer into other sports and areas of their lives.
“GCYSA is good for every sport,” Fallis said. “It introduces kids to team concepts, other kids who aren’t exactly like them, travel, the physical rigors of athletics, and how the physical and mental rigors are related to each other. There’s a certain form of discipline they have to have in order for the team to perform. They understand they’re being relied on.”
Many Marble Falls Middle School and Marble Falls High School soccer players learned the sport through Granite Country.
MORE THAN A SPORT
One of the best things about soccer in the 1980s was the diversity of the teams, which consisted of boys and girls and a variety ethnicities.
Spaar still celebrates that diversity. He made friends across playing fields through the sport and even met his wife, Lisa, while competing.
Worley said sports ensured he and his friends stayed out of trouble. Between school, jobs, practices, and games, they didn’t have time for anything else.
Worley graduated from Marble Falls High School in 1986 and joined the Navy in 1988. He played semi-pro soccer for two years while stationed in Japan then competed in an Austin adult league. He was also a member of a squad that traveled the world playing national teams in several countries
Today, Spaar coaches select soccer in Bulverde. His 12-year-old son, Barrett, is on the team.
Spaar said that, as a boy, he didn’t envision the Granite Country Youth Soccer Association being as big as it is today.
“It’s a cool thing,” he said.
Fallis still officiates, while Worley coaches his grandson on the Red Devils team — everyone still wears red jerseys. His dad, Bill Worley Sr., the Red Devils first coach, died in 1986.
“He’d be proud to see kids play soccer here,” the younger Worley said. “He’d still want to be involved.”