Hometown Hero Glenn Gray
April 2019 – Edina enjoys a long track record as an ice hockey powerhouse, but Minnesota’s official state sport is far from the only game in town. Soccer has boasted a stable presence here for just as long, as coach and enthusiast Glenn Gray can attest.
Gray is a board member and immediate past president of the Edina Soccer Association (ESA), an all-volunteer enterprise that is inching toward its 50th anniversary. ESA has been stoking grassroots interest in the sport since 1974, and today is the largest club of its kind anywhere in the Twin Cities.
Gray himself has been a presence, both on the field and behind the scenes, for the last decade or so. “I started as a coach ... This gave me a good opportunity to identify various things that I wanted to change or to try,” he recalled. “Of course, the only way to do that was to join the board!"
At the behest of then-president Dave Hruby, Gray eventually accepted a seat on ESA’s executive board – before ultimately slipping into the president’s seat himself.
Gray’s varied accomplishments include a much-needed overhaul to the Edina Soccer Association’s web presence. “We launched a new website, built on SportsEngine, in 2017. It’s up to date and easy to keep that way – and it’s mobile friendly, too.” Under Gray’s guidance, the organization also rolled out a brand refresh, complete with new logo and branded merchandise. Taken as a whole, these updates give ESA the professional and cohesive appearance that the organization deserves.
At last count, youth enrollment stands at 2,800 per year. In part, Gray credits the organization’s organic but impressive growth to the approachability of soccer. Little equipment is required, and costs can be kept low for all (especially when compared to hockey or football). ESA’s concerted efforts over the years to recruit diverse ages and skill levels has also paid dividends.
“At this point, we provide soccer opportunities for boys and girls from pre-kindergarten all the way through the 12th grade,” he said.
Gray took ESA’s all-are-welcome mentality a step further in 2017 with the rollout of a new Adult Coed Soccer League. “The only requirement is that you have to be over 25, and either a resident of Edina or have a child currently participating in Edina soccer,” Gray explained. Special rules – including no side tackling or diving header attempts – “keep the playing field even.”
Participating allows parents to model good sportsmanship, promote a healthy lifestyle and simply share in the fun. This adults-only offshoot, which typically draws about 80 players to Pamela Park on a given Sunday, has emerged as one of Gray’s favorite aspects of ESA.
As is the case in many board-driven nonprofits, Gray’s leadership responsibilities have expanded over time to include a laundry list of “other duties as assigned.” He is a key driver behind ESA’s presence in the Edina 4th of July Parade, and organizes periodic field trips to Minnesota United games.
In recognition of Glenn Gray’s long and ever-growing list of contributions to the Edina Soccer Association and Edina youth, Mayor Jim Hovland awarded him the annual Mayor’s Service to Youth Commendation in April 2019.