Deptford High School renamed its varsity soccer field in honor of John Culp, a pioneer of South Jersey soccer and former Spartans coach.
The new name, John Culp Soccer Field, which is placed on top of the scoreboard, was unveiled during a ceremony on the field on Friday, Sept. 20.
Culp served as president of the NJ Soccer Association, where he retired from active coaching in 1985. He officiated high school soccer in South Jersey for 25 years, retiring at age 80.
Culp is considered to be responsible for putting soccer in South Jersey on a level playing field with North Jersey through the selection process of picking All-Star players.
“I’m very happy to be here,” said Culp.
During his speech – which was heard by his family and friends, the school’s varsity boys and girls soccer teams and members of the South Jersey soccer community – he remembered a time long ago when soccer wasn’t a part of his life.
“One day one of the guys said, ‘why don’t you come down and try out for the team?’ I said, ‘I can’t play soccer,’” remembered Culp when he was at West Chester University.
But Culp joined the team anyway, going on to win the national championship in 1956 after beating Michigan State.
After he graduated, he became a teacher in Deptford Township schools and founded and coached the Deptford High School boys soccer program from 1965 to 1985. During that time, he helped form the South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association, where he served as vice president and treasurer for eight years, and also formed the South Jersey Coaches Tournament. He organized the All State-All Star game in 1982 and coached the first game.
Culp even lined off the school’s original soccer field himself in 1965, back when kids were still using it to trot their horses across.
He is in the NJ State Soccer Hall of Fame, South Jersey Coaches of Boys Athletics Hall of Fame, South Jersey Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (Susquehanna Valley Chapter), a recipient of the Alumni Soccer Award from West Chester University, Gloucester County Sports Hall of Fame and Deptford High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Speeches were given by Gloucester County Freeholder Frank DiMarco and former freeholder and soccer player Vince Nestore.
“To my mentor, to my coach and who I consider my second Pop, this man spent a lot of free time with us ballplayers … he was always teaching us and inspiring us on and off the field. He was always encouraging us never to quit no matter what the score was,” said Nestore.