Since becoming the Social Media Director for Ballistic, it has given me the chance to think back on my tenure as a player and a coach for BUSC. More importantly, it made think about what it meant to put on the yellow/white and black for the club.
My playing career began in 1968, the first year for soccer for BUSC as my father Harry was one of the founding fathers of the club. It was a rudimentary beginning with pretty much everything taking place at what is now known as the Upper Bernal field.
Just four short years later, I was a member of the first BUSC CYSA-North State Cup champions when our under-12 team got it done in the finals against Dublin United.
It was a tremendous rivalry – it carried all the way through high school – and in 1972 Dublin got the best of through every single game until that day in April when we prevailed 2-0 at the Robertson Park Rodeo grounds in Livermore.
I can still remember that day, right down to when CYSA had us take two team pictures before the game started – one where they told us to act like we lost, followed by a second picture, acting like we had just won the state title.
Steve Englebrick – a BUSC Hall of Fame selection – scored both goals. Ironically Englebrick would go on being an All-American at Amador, followed by a college career at the University of Washington, a professional career in Seattle, all as a defender.
Also, on our team was a player named John Costello, one of the top, not only soccer players, but all around athletes to come out of Pleasanton. Costello was tragically murdered in the early 1980’s, but his legacy was to be one of genuinely great and skilled players to ever don the yellow and black. He put on a show every time he touched the ball.
On the other team was a young kid named Kevin Crow, now the Technical Director for BUSC. The Crow family had already moved to Pleasanton and he was attending Harvest Park but was finishing out the season for Dublin.
Following our title, we were the guest in Sacramento of then Governor Ronald Reagan and state congressman Carlos Bee. We had lunch with Bee, then met Reagan in his office and had our pictures taken. The picture still hangs proudly in the house today.
The next year Crow played for Ballistic and off he went, starring at Amador along with Englebrick at Amador, before Crow moved on to San Diego State where he ended up earning All-American honors, then moving to an award winning professional career both indoors and outdoors with the San Diego Sockers. Mix in a multitude of appearances with the United States National team, including appearances in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic games.
That group of guys I played with throughout my youth career included those three, as well as players like Marty Espinoza – another Hall of Famer, who went out and led Chico State to an NCAA Div. II title in the early 1980’s.
You see where I am going – there were not just some good players – there was some of the best this town has ever seen.
We ended up winning a state title in both U-14 and U-19 before everyone headed off to college. We also tacked on some international titles, winning in a tournament in Mexico City during our U-16 season. The tournament featured champions from Brazil, Mexico, and Canada, and yep, Ballistic brought the title home. Crow has other worldly in the tournament, scoring seven of his goals via headshots.
I know there is an 8MM film of that game somewhere of our final where we won in sudden-death penalty kicks. Ask Crow about my penalty kick in that game and the near riot it touched off.
It was during those years that Ballistic United became known, not just in California, but across the country and in Canada as well. When you wore the uniform, you walked tall.
Go to a tournament and you had instant credibility. It honestly was like being a rock star as other teams looked and pointed at us as we walked past. I was simply happy to be a member of those teams all those years.
Our last ride together came in high school where most of us went to Amador. We went two years without losing a game and in 1979, my senior year along with Crow and Englebrick, saw us end the season as the top ranked high school team in California and the United States as well.
Espinoza was a junior on that team, and we had other legendary Pleasanton soccer players like Matt Hickman. We were guided by the iconic Amador coach Mike Geib.
One added enjoyment we had was that we were all from Pleasanton. We went to school together through high school, then we to practice together. We were best friends, establishing bonds that we now carry as we get ready to hit 60.
It was a special time and formed our lives.
I think Ballistic lost its way for a while, but once Crow came back to the club as the Executive Director in 2009 things have changed for the better. It’s so satisfying to see people like Crow, BUSC Board member Mike Nieto, current BUSC President Scott McMillin, and coaches like Josh McKay, Sean Lemoine, Gordon Lang, as well as former Rec Director Tony Chavarria – all formers BUSC players – back with the club.
Those guys led years of soccer after we went through, keeping up and building on the tradition we set.
They know what it was like to wear the Black and Gold. They wore their uniforms with pride and have in turn instilled that pride to this generation of BUSC players.
Times have certainly changed and no longer do clubs form their top teams from entirely the same city and at times players may play for multiple teams in their youth career.
It is a necessary evil in the movement of youth athletics, but in the long run, the higher level of play does benefit the players trying to play beyond their youth years.
I went through it with one of my sons in lacrosse, often driving him 1-2 hours just for practice. It was something I think the kids missed out on not always playing with their school friends, but given the way youth sports have moved, you have no option.
I just would like to pass along one message to the current crop of BUSC talent it would be to embrace these times in your life and to walk proud when wearing the BUSC uniform.
There is a legion of players that came before you that worked to build the program and it is your turn to carry it on for the players in future years!
By Dennis Miller