Still kicking

Turning 70 hasn’t diminished Bruce Carlstedt’s love of playing and refereeing soccer

On Aug. 17, Westfield’s Bruce Carlstedt celebrated his 70th birthday. The following day he was out running, passing and kicking with his children and friends– not in the backyard but in a coed adult soccer league game.

“He’s an inspiration for a lot of people around the league,” said Khari Nixon, a player on the Carlstedt family’s adult coed team for the past eight years. “I hear people all the time say, ‘I’m too old to do that.’ Because of Bruce that’s not in my dictionary.”

Surprisingly, Carlstedt never played soccer before his oldest son, Eric, now 44, was 10 years old and wanted to compete in the sport. At the time, there were no soccer leagues in Westfield so Eric played three seasons at the Carmel Dad’s Club.

“He put me down as an assistant,” Carlstedt said.

Three years later, Carlstedt helped form Westfield Youth Soccer in 1979-1980. They started with just two teams. Today the club is the fifth largest in Indiana with teams playing in recreation, academy and travel programs.

“If nothing else, these kids are out here two nights a week and a weekend exercising and being active. They’re not sitting in front of the TV, they are outside and hopefully having a good time,” he said. “It’s a side benefit I never recognized (when forming the league).”

In 1984, Carlstedt became a referee and began coordinating all referees for the organization. When the league first started only a “handful” of whistle blowers were needed; now Carlstedt said 100 referees are used for recreational games.

“We have 1,000 kids each season. I’m surprised by the number of people involved,” he said.

Most of those involved with the club today know Carlstedt for his work as or with referees. He regularly conducts new referee training classes and recertification classes, and most weekends you can find him on the field as a referee.

“Refereeing is as much about teaching the rules, showing players the right way to do it. Kids want to know,” he said.

Carlstedt’s wife, Sharon, joked that her husband would take their youngest son, Tim, to the fields and offer to referee games if “somebody will watch my baby.”

“I love doing it. I can ref a U18 game and then run over and ref a U7 game,” he said.

In his 29 years as a referee, Carlstedt estimates he has overseen more than 100 games per year –  3,000 matches overall.

“I really enjoy it. I truly enjoy it,” he said. “You have the best seat in the house. You see people’s eyes – see plays develop.”

Throughout his career, Carlstedt said he has only used a few whistles and currently has two in his bag.

“They last a long time or I don’t blow them enough,” he said.

15 years ago, Dan Newman and Carlstedt started an adult coed league. The purpose is to give parents with soccer players a chance to better understand the game and give former players a chance to get back on the field.

“The whole idea is to make it fun,” he said.

The first time the family played on the same field together in an actual game came after Tim turned 21 and could play in the adult league.

“It was really a special thing that first time on the field with all four of them,” he said.

Carlstedt has coached each of his children at one point and even officiated a U7 game of his grandson, Gus.

“The whole family has played soccer – rec, travel and high school,” said Heather Gallagher, Carlstedt’s daughter. “It’s great. It gets us together every Sunday and we have a lot of fun.”

Gallagher remembers when the league was in its early stages and now has children playing in it.

“It was all baseball in Westfield,” she said. “It’s come a long way. I was here before (Habig) fields opened and we just played the last game on them.”

WYSO will play it games at Shamrock Springs Elementary School next season before eventually moving out to Grand Park.

“It’s going to be different not being out here (at Habig),” Carlstedt said. “The city has embraced sports and took it to the next level. It’s very positive.”

On Feb. 7, 2009, Carlstedt was inducted into the Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame. In addition to his involvement in Westfield, Carlstedt has volunteered at Indiana Youth Soccer as a commissioner and a long time state registrar on the Indiana Youth Soccer Board. After eight years of officiating high school games, Carlstedt decided to retire.

“I couldn’t keep up with a high schooler on a fast break. You have to recognize when you might be a detriment,” he said.

Carlstedt likes to be outside, and to stay in shape he runs.

“I ran 3.6 miles yesterday,” he said. “I’ve ran in the Indianapolis Mini Marathon every year but a few since it began.”

Slowing down is not in the cards for Carlstedt, who recently read an article about a 95-year-old man officiating soccer games.

“That’s my goal now,” he said with a smile. “If I make that I’ll be fine. As long as I can, I’ll stay out here.”

Meet Bruce Carlstedt

Age: 70

Residence: Westfield

Hometown: Batavia, Ill.

Family: wife, Sharon; and children, Eric, Heather, Matt and Tim.

Hobbies: Soccer, fishing, photography, running and being involved at his church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Employment: Semiretired – teaches pharmacy at Purdue University.

Personal quote: “Have fun. When I look at all the many things I do, I have too much fun. That’s part of it.”