A “Soccer Mom” who was instrumental in starting soccer in Greensboro in the early 1970s when the family moved to Greensboro from Atlanta and found no soccer leagues available to her five children.. Was a founder of the Greensboro Youth Soccer Association as well as the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association, and was instrumental in affiliating NCYSA with the United States Youth Soccer Association. Served as president of NCYSA and a sub-regional director for Region III of US Youth Soccer. Was co-owner of the Soccer Shoppe, the first soccer store in the Southeast USA.
An athlete in her own right at a time when it was not fashionable for women to be athletic, Barbara was an outstanding high school basketball player as a young woman growing up in Los Angeles. She is the mother of five children Lori, Jody, David, Eric and John. When she and her husband, Jack, moved from Greensboro to Atlanta in 1970, her three boys, ages 12, 10 and 8, discovered the joy of soccer. Attending three soccer games per week gave Barbara the fever as well. When there was a call for new referees due to tremendous growth and popularity of the game, Barbara jumped right in and became the third female soccer referee in Atlanta.
Two and half years later, the Blums moved back to Greensboro. Shocked that they were moving back into a soccerless community, Barbara took action and approached the city about starting a league. Officials told her that if she would find the referees and coaches, they would push it through. She then approached the head soccer coach at Guilford College for help. He invited her to speak to the college team. Five volunteers stepped forward — Don Yelton, Tim Crawford, Carl Fenske, Mike Dimoff and M.C. McCoy — offering to help as coaches and referees. In order to move the city along, Barbara had a dozen friends call the Parks and Registration department to say that they heard that a soccer league was forming and to ask where they could register. City officials quickly called her wanting to know when she could start in the spring, because the phone was ringing off the hook. The first year fielded 18 boys and 4 girls teams. The city gave her Lathem Park and Glenwood fields and provided equipment. Once a week on Saturday Barbara recalls running back and forth between both fields to make sure that referees showed up. Lathem Park had a wooden goal. Barbara took a ladder every Saturday morning before the first game to hammer in protruding nails!
In 1975 she appeared before the Greensboro School Board in an effort to get soccer into the four high schools. The vote was positive. Barbara’s children attended Grimsley High School. She remembers the resistance that the school’s administrators had toward the new sport. Players shared basketball uniforms and used wooden goals, built by Carl Fenske. Use of the football field was out of the question.
In 1976 the Bicentennial Soccer tournament came to North Carolina, with foreign teams invited to play teams from Wilson, Raleigh, Greensboro and Chapel Hill. Initial games were played in each city, with Greensboro slated to play Peru. The city had no fields to accommodate audiences so Barbara approached Grimsley officials to request the use of Jameson Football Stadium. She was told that the field could be used for the actual game but not for practices. One week before the game, at night, Barbara and the players climbed over the fence to practice. Barbara Blum was unstoppable!
With other key soccer figures in North Carolina, Barbara provided leadership in affiliating NCYSA with USYSA. She served as NCYSA Vice President for one term of office, as NCYSA President during two terms and as a USYSA sub-regional (six southern states) for two years. The first soccer store in the entire southeast, The Soccer Shoppe, was opened by Barbara in Greensboro.
In looking back, Barbara reflects on how soccer was a labor of love. She, her fellow workers and the players enjoyed camaraderie and team spirit and learned lessons in life not only how to lose gracefully but also how to win gracefully. She applauds in particular the work of Bill Utter, Joel Deaton, Don Yelton, Pat Kelley, Carl Fenske, Mike Dimoff, Rudy Hinshaw and John Malmfelt, all of whom share with her the credit for introducing organized soccer to Greensboro.
Comments from soccer friends: the best leader with whom I’ve ever been associated; whenever anything seemed missing, Barbara lit the fires to provide it; rarely has an individual given so much of themselves to support the youth; only Barbara knows the sum of her hours of unselfish dedication — and I doubt that she kept count.