For a youth sports club to thrive for half a century, there must be continuity, community pride and a love for the organization.
The Ballistic United Soccer Club checks off all those boxes, and because of that, it's no surprise to see BUSC celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
While all youth sports organizations are fortunate to have people willing to take the time to run the respective leagues, with Ballistic it seems to go a step further. There's a genuine love for BUSC, and it's easy to see when talking with people involved.
"I can't imagine being with another club," said Kevin Crow, executive director for BUSC, as well as an alumnus. "I like to work at places I have an emotional attachment to and Ballistic is right at the top of that list."
Ballistic was founded back in 1968 by a quartet of men -- Harry Miller, Larry Boldrini, Gary Patton and Harry Regan. It was a group in which the majority had little or no knowledge of soccer, but thanks to their hard work and dedication, one of the top youth soccer clubs in the nation was formed.
The club has grown from a handful of teams that played their games at the Upper Field at the old Pleasanton Elementary (now the Pleasanton Unified School District offices) to 135 teams and over 1,400 players competing at first-class facilities such as the Val Vista soccer fields, Patelco Park and of course, the Ken Mercer Sports Park.
Ballistic will celebrate its history next Saturday (Oct. 6) with the Orange and Gold Gala, a yearly event held in conjunction with the Pleasanton Rage at Barone's. (See the accompanying box for more information on the event that will pay tribute to the Top 50 Difference Makers in BUSC history.)
Along the way, there have been numerous California State Championships -- the first came in 1972 -- as well as major national and international titles. Pretty much every hotbed of youth soccer in the United States knows of Ballistic United.
One of the keys to BUSC not only existing but flourishing when so many other youth sports organizations have declined is continuity. In the 50 years of the club, there have only been five presidents.
"That's unheard of," Crow said of only having five presidents during the tenure of BUSC. "You look at all the other sports in the area and there always seems to be a turnover in running the clubs. That means they are re-inventing themselves every few years."
Nandor Krause, who spent 12 years as the BUSC president, echoes Crow's feelings.
"It has helped the club to have continuity," Krause said. "I don't know if turnover brings a benefit. In my time as president I had to deal with multiple presidents for the Rage, and every time there was a learning curve."
Krause and his family embraced everything the club offered. Growing up playing soccer in the South Bay, Krause remembered playing against Ballistic teams. When it came time to register his son for soccer at the age of 5, Krause recounts walking into registration.
"We walked in and there was the coach of the under-19 team I played against working registration," Krause said. "It was then that I realized that Ballistic was more than just a club."
And it became part of his life. When asked about his memories from his time as the president, Krause barely hesitated.
"The excitement of getting ready for our tournaments or the parade," he said. "Getting up at the crack of dawn -- it was so much fun. The parade was huge and just getting to know all the different families was great. Even the board meetings, that were at times tedious, were still a lot of fun."
Current president Sam Head is in his fourth year at the helm. He agrees the key to the longevity of Ballistic has a lot to do with the limited number of presidents in the club's history.
"There's certainly a consistency in the leadership of the organization," Head said. "That makes it much smoother to get things done."
Head and his family moved into town in 2000 and learned about Ballistic from the multitude of kids that lived on their street. His son entered into the program in under-5, then progressed to the competitive side when he hit the under-9 division.
It was at that point Head got hooked on the club.
"It was interesting to see the boys were walking straighter -- walking with more confidence -- when they got those sweats and backpacks the comp teams wear," he said. "When I saw that, I wanted to get more involved in the club. I wanted to help make sure kids would always have that chance."
And like everyone else associated with the club, while Head takes great pride of the accomplishments of the competitive teams, he is equally as proud of the recreational program.
"Our rec program is the core of everything," Head said. "It's the community. I get a chance to walk in the front of the parade every year, and it's a great feeling to see all the teams."
As important as the continuity of the leadership has been for Ballistic, so has the club's ability to bring back former players into the mix. When you have coaches and others in the club keeping the legacy alive of what it was like when they played, it's a recipe for success.
Krause was the president when the club hired Crow to come back as the executive/technical director for the club. Even though the club had some past quality technical directors, with Crow they had a home-grown former player with impeccable playing credentials.
"When we were looking for a new director, we talked with a lot of people," Krause said. "With Kevin we really got a sense of bleeding black and gold. Kevin's just added to the feeling of community we have with the club."
Crow starred at Amador Valley High School before becoming an All-American at San Diego State, and then enjoying a lengthy professional career with the San Diego Sockers and the United States National Team (he played in two Olympics).
He is just one of many former players involved in the club.
Scott McMillin is the current vice president of Ballistic and is another former player. For McMillin, getting involved was a no-brainer.
"To me it's all about giving back to the community," McMillin said. "Keeping the culture of the club alive is important because things (in life) are always changing. We've been able to keep our family lifestyle the same as it was for me growing up in this town 40 years ago. Soccer and Ballistic is a big part of that."
Tony Chavarria is the technical recreational director, overseeing the 850 recreational players. He is yet another that spent his youth years playing for Ballistic and came back to work with the club.
"To know this is where I started playing, and to be part of the club and have it been as successful as it is, is amazing," Chavarria said. "I am now seeing some of our rec coaches that played in the club now coaching their grandkids. People keep coming back to the club to help and that has become part of the tradition."
He was also quick to point out the number of people that donate their time to the club.
"There are still a lot of volunteers," Chavarria said. "Those are the people that keep it going -- they make it work. That's where it all begins."
Orange and Gold Gala
Ballistic United, along with the Pleasanton Rage, are gearing up for their annual Orange and Gold Gala.
The event will take place next Saturday (Oct. 6) at Barone's in downtown Pleasanton and will have a little extra celebration this year as Ballistic will be recognizing the Top 50 Difference Makers in BUSC history.
Here are the Top 5 Difference Makers:
1. Harry Miller (Hall of Fame coach, board member, club founder).
2. Kevin Crow (Hall of Fame player, executive director).
3. 1999-2000 U-16 Ballistic Team.
4. 2015-16 U-17 Team.
5. Larry Boldrini (Hall of Fame coach, BUSC's first president, club founder).
Tickets for the gala are on sale now and cost $60 for one person or $100 for two. A reserved table of 10 can be purchased for $600, while a cabana can be reserved for $1,000.
For more information, go to www.busc.org.