Rudi Mayer, a Prospect Heights resident and former professional soccer player, mentions family quite a bit when discussing the early days of the Green White Soccer Club.
The club was created in 1956 by German soccer enthusiasts living in Chicago. Mayer's father used to take him to watch the games.
"It was primarily an ethnic organization back then, just like there were Polish clubs and Italian clubs," Mayer said. "Green White gave people of German heritage a chance to come together on Sundays, speak their native language to each other and enjoy the sport. It created a really warm atmosphere."
It also ignited Mayer's love for soccer, and it wasn't long before he was playing on Green White teams. In later years he would play on an NCAA-champion team at Michigan State and earn a spot on the Chicago Sting, a professional team that existed in the 1970s and 1980s.
"Green White is where it started for me," he said.
The Green White Soccer Club is still going strong today, nearly 60 years after it was founded. The group is now based in Mount Prospect, and it offers a more elaborate soccer program, with multiple teams for girls, boys and men.
Participants say, though, that the close-knit feel of the organization remains.
"I think it's what sets us apart," said Mount Prospect resident Rick Kaempfer, son of one of the club's co-founders and member of the board of directors. "Community has always been a big focus, and it still is."
Green White moved to Mount Prospect in 1982, after the group's Chicago location, Welles Park in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, was becoming crowded with other leagues. The club scouted a number of sites, eventually making a deal to develop land that's now part of the Majewski Athletic Complex on the south end of the Mount Prospect Park District. Green White has maintained a partnership with the park district ever since.
The club draws children and adults from Mount Prospect and surrounding suburbs. Its various programs reach players of different ages and abilities.
Steve Samuelson of Des Plaines, a volunteer coach and Green White board member, discovered the club while looking for a good soccer program for his daughter, who was in kindergarten at the time. He wanted a single-gender program, and most of the suburban programs he checked out were coed.
"It was a great experience for both my daughters," he said. "The approach was very developmental, which is what I was looking for."
Green White alumni point out that the club has produced its fair share of excellent soccer. Its teams have won multiple state titles and developed players who excelled at the college and professional levels.
The club recently announced that its new director of coaching is Adam Howarth, formerly the men's soccer coach at Eastern Illinois University.
"I'm excited about the future," Kaempfer said. "To bring someone like Coach Howarth on is a real coup."
Kaempfer said he's sure that his father, Eckhard, and the other founders of Green White never would have imagined in 1956 that their little soccer club would still be going six decades later.
"It's pretty great to be part of it and to see it keep moving forward," he said.
For more about Green White, visit its website, greenwhitesoccer.org.