CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ted Ruzbasan, a beloved Grayslake youth soccer coach and referee, died of complications from COVID-19 at the age of 82, his family said.
Ruzbasan and his wife ran one of the area's largest youth soccer tournaments who colleagues said changed the game. He's considered a revolutionary of youth soccer leagues in Illinois.
"Soccer really started coming into its own when Ted got involved," said Stan Anderson, family friend.
Long before youth soccer was the well-organized sport we know now, Ruzbasan was just a dad who wanted to spend a little more time with his kids.
"My dad never played a game of soccer in his whole life," said Rick Ruzbasan, son. "He really only got involved in it because we all loved it."
Between raising five kids and working two jobs, soccer in the northwest suburbs became his life. From youth coaching, Ruzbasan transitioned to refereeing.
"He loved what a referee did for a game, and he instilled discipline in the players and respect for the coaches," Rick recalled.
"He was their mentor, he was their coach, he was their inspiration," said Carrie Schinkowsky, daughter. "He was anything and everything to everyone."
And soccer was every bit of his life until a little more than three weeks ago.
"Three weeks ago he was a very healthy, vibrant man. And then to go from that to ending his life the way he did with COVID, and have to be alone in that fight, just ripped us up," Schinkowsky said.
Without Ted Ruzbasan, youth soccer likely won't be the same. But a bit of his lasting legacy on the sport may endure.
"This is a game for kids and it's meant to be fun, and we should all be having fun," Rick Ruzbasan said.