The Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club has a rich and proud history.
The club was the first in Wisconsin to envision a new brand of youth soccer club. To get a better idea of the changes that have happened over the years, I sat down with our own Membership Services Manager, Nancy Ziaja.
Ziaja has been with the Kickers for over 20 years and has been a key player in the shift in the Wisconsin soccer scene. She is married to a former soccer Olympian, who competed in the 1972 Olympics, and that relationship along with her years of experience has made her insight invaluable.
Introduced to the Milwaukee Kickers while watching her children play youth soccer, Ziaja started when the club operated out of a one person office. Someone suggested she apply for the Kickers and the rest is history. Since then Ziaja has seen the growth of the Kickers to 15 unified regions, the construction of Uihlein Soccer Park from the previous use of the grounds as a polo field, and an increased interest in soccer in Wisconsin.
While most clubs in the late 1960s and early 1970s were more ethnic-oriented, the Kickers was the first club to recognize that demographic separation. The club soon changed its approach and offered a setting where all could come and play the beautiful game.
By the 1980s, the Milwaukee Kickers had grown into a premier club. It was the first club to organize single leagues by age for youth players, and many clubs quickly followed suit. The Kickers also played a key role in later developing girl’s and women’s leagues across the state.
When asked about the beginnings of the club, Ziaja credits volunteers who were pivotal in helping the club grow to what it is today. During the early stages, many volunteers worked out of their homes or on a part-time basis. Today, Uihlein Soccer Park has given volunteers and employees a venue to meet and contribute. While the involvement of volunteers has slightly decreased in past years, Ziaja is a firm believer that volunteers are still necessary to the club to continue future growth and prosperity.
While the Milwaukee Kickers continues to expand, Ziaja remains a leader in the organization. Thanks to her dedication (as well as many others through the years), the Milwaukee Kickers has grown into one of the largest and most respected clubs in the nation.