Sweitzer Cup: Untimely Death Inspires Competition and Charity
GOSHEN—Rory Brady was studying for college finals that cold winter day when he heard the news. On Dec. 16, 1996, his high school buddy and close friend Tim Sweitzer was killed in a car accident. Brady and others who knew Tim wanted his memory as an outstanding scholar athlete to live on and the Sweitzer Cup was born. The alumni soccer tournament will be held for the sixth go-round on August 1.
This year 16 teams will have a crack at top honors, with squads from Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the mix. A pre-tournament dinner will be held the evening before and an award will be presented to an outstanding coach in honor of the late Tony Cavaliere, who mentored young athletes both on and off the field.
A Young Man’s Life Cut Short
Tim was on his way to work from Pine Bush to a Washingtonville soccer shop when his car skidded. A tractor trailer came around the corner and hit the vehicle. Brady recalls how Tim’s parents took care of their son’s friends. “Following his death, the parents brought us all in.” Brady says he grew up fast. “It was zero to 60 from childhood to adulthood.”
Many missed the popular Burke Catholic High School student. “The athletes liked him, the girls liked him. He managed to walk in every circle.” Brady remembers him as smart, funny, compassionate, and a very good soccer player. “We had a very successful soccer team as far as high school standards.”
A scholarship fund was set up. Eventually the monies that funded the scholarship dried up and it ceased to be presented, according to the Burke High School website.
Brady returned to Goshen and visited his friend’s grave. It had fallen into neglect. He got together with Tim’s friends for a poker tournament to celebrate Tim’s short life and to raise money to beautify his grave site.
After a couple of beers, and a couple of stories being told, the poker talk turned to soccer. “Former teammates began to reminisce about the glory days on the pitch.” Cross town soccer rivals Goshen and Burke wrangled over who was better and laced “up their cleats to settle the score one last time,” according to the school website. Guys from Pine Bush, where Tim was raised, and Washingtonville, where he played on a club team, watched the game and wanted in.
The Tournament Rises to New Heights
By the time the second annual Sweitzer Cup kicked off in August 2011 eight teams from Orange County vied for the Cup. Now it’s a full-fledged tournament. In 2014, as the Sweitzer Cup entered its fifth year, the tournament featured 12 teams, including Vernon High School from New Jersey.
The tournament begins to get serious. Brady says “it went from a beer league to being covered [by the media] as a soccer tournament because there was high-level competition. We had the best of one school’s alumni versus the best of another school.”
Younger players posed a serious threat to the original older players. “I wasn’t even sure that I was going to make my own team,” Brady jokes. “I started this tournament, I’d better get a spot on my team.”
Brady says the players have a good time for a good cause, but want to kick it up a notch. “It’s neat to share this legacy with guys who play in this tournament that weren’t alive when [Tim] was playing and they are like, ‘What would inspire that kind of passion?'”
Brady and his friends considered this. “We took each team and we said, ‘Each of you is going to have your own Tim Sweitzer.'” Warwick chose Kevin Kless, a former high school soccer player who was murdered. “The [younger Warwick players] didn’t know Tim. They get it. They buy into how passionate I am about it and now their passion rises to mine.”
The Delaware Valley team raises money for Goals for Hope, a tournament that supports a cure for breast cancer.
Tony Rappo, captain of the Pine Bush contingent, chose former Pine Bush JV soccer coach Bill Bartko, who succumbed to cancer. Bartko was Tim’s coach in junior varsity.
The Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan manages donations and players’ fees. As the fund grows, Brady hopes to one day name a field in Tim’s honor.
Popular at All Levels
Club soccer has been increasing in popularity in recent years. Soccer is played by over 13 million people in the United States, making it the third most played sport—more popular than ice hockey and American football.
Soccer is one of the most played sports by youth in the United States. The number of high school soccer players more than doubled from 1990 to 2010, giving soccer the fastest growth rate among all major U.S. sports.
When players graduate from high school, alumni often continue with club teams and tournaments. The Sweitzer Cup is the premier alumni tournament in Orange County played for charity.
He says it is just a soccer game but is also a unique formula for players from the community. “There are no bells and whistles to the tournament itself, other than its alumni teams.” With 16 teams in this year’s tournament, Brady says it may be the last time it is played in one day.
The tournament’s motto is “championing the cause of charity through competition.” In 2012 the tournament moved to Rock Sports Park in Chester.
Vernon, N.J., defeated Pine Bush 1-0 in the fifth annual event. Always a force to be reckoned with, the Pine Bush team now has two teams in the mix. Rappo hopes one of his teams can take the Cup home in honor of their beloved coach. Brady wants Burke to win at least once before he retires his jersey.
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