WOOSTER – The games of old are a common theme across the region in all sports as the past meets the present.
What’s not common is the turnout that Wooster Boys Soccer has generated over the years, and are still anticipating this year for the 40th edition of their alumni game at Follis Field on July 30 at 8 a.m.
For its 35th edition, the Generals saw more than 115 alumni return for the game, including three of its four coaches. Coaches include George Bell, Brian Hansen, Jeff Spitler, and current and 2006 All-Ohioan coach JP Lytle.
“With so many comebacks, it really is an amazing tradition,” Lytle said. “It’s not slowing down anytime soon, and I don’t think anyone in the state is coming back that much for an alumni game.”
The numbers themselves don’t even begin to reflect the level of quality of football players of the past. There are 11 former All-Ohioans slated to play, most recently including Nate Monastra (2021), Jaden Boucher (2020) and two-time winner Joe Stoll (2018, 2017). This level of skill only added to the experience felt in this alumni game.
“It’s the family atmosphere that we all love to be a part of,” Hansen said. “When kids graduate sometimes they get more seasoned playing college, recreational leagues and it’s fun to watch them grow into adulthood.”
More so, it is the bond that is shared between the players on both sides of the pitch as they have all been through the grind of a season. Easily playing in the toughest bracket of any team in the region, the Generals turned this game into a stepping stone for each of their seasons.
“The kids love this game because it marks the start of our season,” Lytle said. “They are always looking forward to stepping onto the pitch and what better way to do that than with our alumni. They shared the same blood, sweat and tears on this pitch as our current players and this day means so much that we share our stories together, find old friends and make new ones.”
For Lytle, the experience is even more unique as he faces the same kids he coaches throughout the season. From being an All-Ohioan to coaching All-Ohioans, Lytle seized the opportunity to give back to the sport that gave him so much.
“I play with the guys in training whenever I can,” he said. “Before I graduated I played on the small pitch and the big pitch so they are used to playing with or against me. We love the competition it brings and the opportunity to have fun playing and coaching the game, which has meant so much to me for so long.”
It is this common bond, the passion to continue playing the sport and the desire to have fun, which has proven to be the key to this Wooster tradition. Each program attempts to keep the past connected with the present, but few have been as successful as the Generals over the years. The numbers will once again speak for themselves in the 40th edition of the oldtimers’ game.
“It’s 100% strictly programmatic,” Hansen said. “You can contribute it to George (Bell), Roger Sherman, who started it, Spitler, myself, and Lytle. There aren’t many programs across Ohio that can say all of their coaches have followed the program. It makes it easy to carry on the tradition.”
Wooster athletic director Alex Mallue also highlighted the strong relationships within and the leadership of Lytle and his staff.
“Every year we have an incredible number of alumni who return to participate in our alumni game,” Mallue said. “It’s a testament to the great work Coach Lytle and Coach (Tyler) Ardrey are doing to maintain relationships with these former players, and it’s also a testament to our former football players themselves. who want to stay involved in our program.
“This annual event is a perfect example of our phrase, ‘Once general, always general.'”