The Corbin High School soccer program is celebrating its 23-year anniversary in 2015. The soccer Hounds played a JV-only scheduled in their inaugural season during the fall of 1992, and they were co-ed until splitting into separate boys and girls teams in the mid-nineties. Several district and region titles later, Head Coach Armando Cima recalls what it was like when things were just getting started over two decades ago.
The story begins with the 1992-93 school year. Coach Cima, who still coaches the CHS boys soccer team today, agreed to lead the first-ever Redhounds soccer squad at the request of several parents of local players. “I really didn’t start the program,” he said. “It was the parents that started it. It was kind of born out of our local youth league, which has always been named Tri-County Youth League.”
Cima, who played soccer at St. Camillus High School in Corbin and Brescia University in Owensboro, said that he returned home after graduating college and was invited to help coach a youth league team. “One of the parents who was coaching a team that had two of my nephews on it asked me if I would help him,” he explained. “I said yes, and enjoyed it. Immediately after that first season coaching youth soccer in Corbin, some of the parents came to me and said that they were going to try to get soccer added in the school system. They asked me if I would be interested in coaching if they could get it.”
Cima said that at this point in time he really had no set plans for where he would go or what he would do next with his life, so he agreed to help in the efforts to get a school team started as long as he was around.
“They went to the board, and the board was a little concerned because they didn’t know if the athletic budget would be able to support another varsity program,” said Cima. “That is when the soccer boosters was formed. They told the board that if they would hire and pay a coach, they would take care of everything else. The varsity club bought us our first set of uniforms that year, and we were on from there.”
Former Lady Hounds soccer Head Coach Erik Steely was a freshman on the 1992 school Corbin soccer team. He said of those early days, “It was unique. At that time, the youth league was really the only opportunity that anybody had to play. It wasn’t available in high school.”
Steely said that being a member of the Corbin soccer team in its inaugural season meant overcoming some challenges, but in the end he said that the experience was a great one for both him, and his friends on the team. “A lot of the other players in my class are still my closest friends,” he explained. “It was a significant bonding experience for all of us. You go through a lot of things when you’re starting a new program, but it was great to see how we progressed by the time we were seniors. By then we had become a very competitive team.”
“I’m immensely proud to have played for Coach Cima,” Steely continued. “He is one of my best friends, and he’s had a huge impact on my life. To be with him when it all started is something that I am very proud of.”
Steely, along with teammates Mike Cima, Daniel Valentine, Pete Lester, Robby Chadwell, Ryan Taylor, Steven Bradley, David Beckung, Charles Bryant, Joshua Zik, Jeff Vickerstaff, Brad Davenport, Mike Brown, Brian Gover, Ben Larrabee, Chris Rong, Eric Clark, Eric Street, Brian Briscoe, Michael Elliott, John Balenovich, Todd Cox, Ian Hart, Greg Lewis, Jerrod Pace, Andy Potter, Anthony Privett and Michael Robinette made up the 1992 soccer Hounds. Since that time, so many players have followed in their footsteps, each helping in their own way to make Corbin soccer the widely known and respected program that it is today.
When asked about what changes he has seen take place over the past 23 years, Coach Cima said, “The attitude towards the sport has really changed in Corbin, just like a lot of other places. In the beginning it was new, and people are kind of wary of anything that’s new. It was a little bit difficult at first. We didn’t have a field to play on except for the high school football field, and that really wasn’t something that a lot of people wanted to happen. You have to give credit to the school board and the parents, though. They were very open minded about the idea that all kids need an opportunity to be involved in something.”
Cima also said that it has been “exciting and refreshing” to see other area schools, such as Whitley County and Knox Central, add soccer to their list of offered sports in recent years. And he is happy about the fact that soccer games can be more commonly found on television these days, as opposed to when he was in high school and was lucky to see maybe one or two games in a week’s time.
As for what the future holds from this point forward, Cima is hoping to see the sport of soccer continue to grow in Corbin and surrounding areas. “My vision was always the make sure we had good numbers every year, and to make sure the youth league stays viable,” he said. “Now I would like to see kids playing more months out of the year. For soccer to get to the level here like it is in other parts of the state, we have to develop better offseason programs for the high school teams, and we have to not be so school-centric in our thinking.”
“The only way for players to get better is for them to be playing in the offseason. When we see more of that happening on a regular basis, then I think that will be good for the future of the sport in our area.”
Be sure to come out and support the Redhounds and Lady Hounds as the Corbin soccer program celebrates its 23rd anniversary with the 2015 season. Home games are held at the beautiful soccer facility behind Corbin Primary School, and full schedules can be found at KHSAA.org.
For more, including excerpts from past newspapers and year books, as well as more comments from former Redhound soccer players, pick up the 9/2 edition of The News Journal!