Culver, Argos celebrate anniversary of an Indiana athletic first

CULVER — It is impossible to celebrate Argos’ rich history of soccer without mentioning the Culver Academies in the same breath.

If a small town in rural Marshall County in 1963 seems like a strange starting point for the history of soccer in Indiana, that’s because, technically, it isn’t the starting point. The international sport was originally imported to the state by Culver Military’s international students, and Argos initially became aware of it via the Academies’ intramural program when the public school was scouting potential fall sports as a way of training for the winter basketball season.

Argos and CMA constitute the first interscholastic soccer teams in Indiana, but while AHS is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its soccer program, Culver Military soccer can trace its roots back at least to the 1940s and its intramural program.

“The kids that historically played for Culver Military Academy were the international kids,” said longtime CMA soccer coach Jim Brugh, who served as an assistant coach with the program from 1974-83 before taking the helm as head coach of the Eagles from 1984-2011.

“In the beginning stages they came from South America and Mexico predominantly. Of course somewhere around the late 60s the U.S. kids at the Academy here caught on and also fell in love with the sport and began to train harder than the Latin American kids were training — none of those kids were used to training every day of the week; they’d train maybe two or three days a week back in their home countries and then maybe play a game on the weekend. They weren’t used to the rigors of the way United States athletics ran.”

Argos and CMA share a unique connection through the sport of soccer. The two schools started the first high school programs in the state — indeed, with no other teams to play the Dragons and the Eagles simply played one another four times in that first season in 1963 and, even as more schools started up programs, they continued a home-and-home series each season for years after — and together helped found the Northern Indiana Soccer Conference, to which they both still belong, in 1969.

Since their inception 50 years ago, the Argos and CMA programs have enjoyed considerable success in the sport of soccer with 28 NISC titles between them — including the Dragons’ conference-leading 17, which they added to last season. Each school owns seven sectional titles and although sectional competition between the two ended with the advent of the two-class state soccer tournament by the IHSAA in 2011, a spirited rivalry between the programs remains.

Brugh can recall both his players and their Argos opponents bringing a little something extra to the pitch for their games with one another.
“When Argos and CMA got on the soccer field together, it was a special moment in the seasons for both schools. The rivalry between Argos and CMA on the soccer field takes on a new dimension. I have known both CMA teams and Argos teams who historically have not necessarily in a particular year been exceptionally strong, but during that match both teams play basically above their ability. It’s fun to watch because all of the players on the field were inspired,” he said.

“In the initial years there was always a home and away contest, so you played each other two times a year, and they were quite animated, quite fun to watch and quite fun to coach.”

Since Argos and CMA gave soccer to Indiana in 1963, the sport has changed dramatically. It’s become faster-paced and yet more controlled. It’s also become much more technical.

“If you want to take it roughly from the beginning days to what it is right now, the beginnings were not necessarily the most skilled kind of soccer that you saw anywhere in the world,” Brugh said. “It was more athleticism that would win a game than soccer ability, and that has since changed over to nowadays you tend to see more soccer ability deciding the victory than just pure athleticism. Once in awhile you can still see a bunch of athletes that will beat a skilled soccer team on the field; it still happens but not nearly as much as it used to.”

From its humble beginning of just two teams in southern Marshall County 50 years ago — one looking for something to do in the buildup to basketball season and the other seeking an outlet into the game its international students were homesick for — there has been tremendous growth in Indiana high school soccer, with the IHSAA now recognizing 300 boys teams and 162 girls teams. And fans of the beautiful game in the state have CMA and Argos to thank.