Time to kick it — AYSO season starts Saturday | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Time to kick it — AYSO season starts Saturday

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Long on numbers and short on volunteers, the South Shore’s largest youth sport begins on Saturday.

The American Youth Soccer Organization Region 282 begins its two-month season Saturday with games primarily scheduled on elementary school fields throughout the community.

“It means a great deal to me … it keeps me going,” said board member George McKool, whose two daughters are among the more than 1,000 children who enjoy the sport locally. “It teaches the kids sportsmanship, team play and the ups and downs of life.”

For league registrar Rhonda Roth, Saturdays in late summer and fall are soccer.

“We’ve got the whole day planned around soccer,” she said. “Kids learn patience, get an understanding of the game and they make a lot of friends.”

While the league continually draw four-digit numbers, the amount of volunteers has dwindled.

Consequently, McKool finds himself doing everything from striping fields and passing out equipment to organizing tournament play.

“For about four or five years the same group of parents were volunteering over and over, and now their kids have moved on,” said McKool, who also coaches each of his daughters’ teams. “The next crop hasn’t stepped up yet.”

McKool, however, remembers when he used to leave his daughters Marissa, 13, and Tierney, 11, with his volunteer predecessors.

“For the first four years I just dropped the kids off like it was a babysitting service,” he said. “As time went on, they needed this or that, so I got involved. I don’t have a life except soccer. It wraps you up.”

What many parents enjoy about the league, which includes divisions for under-6 boys and girls to U-19 coed, is the noncompetitive atmosphere.

“It’s not supposed to be competitive like your club or high school team,” said regional commissioner Marsha Roberto. “Sometimes us adults lose sight of it, and therefore sometimes the kids do, too.

“It’s a good place to learn how to play the game and have fun.”

With many volunteers first-time coaches, the league has organized preseason clinics to help parents organize practices and drills and learn the game.

“A lot of people are intimidated to coach because they don’t know what to do,” Roth said.

As a result, Region 282 has retained Major League Soccer camp coach Rob Cox of England for the season to help coaches become comfortable working the sidelines.

Cox will conduct a clinic from 5-8 p.m. Friday at Al Tahoe Elementary School. Parents, coaches and children are welcome.

Volunteers are needed to coach, maintain fields, referee, organize equipment and order uniforms. Phone the league hotline at (530) 577-AYSO.

Teams are set for all divisions except the U-19 division. Players interested in competing at that level should should call the hotline number.

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