PLAYSOCCER Magazine Fall 2019

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Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

When the gears are all in sync and you’ve got a cohesive unit moving as one towards a common goal, extraordinary seasons can unfold! The AYSO Store is just one of those many gears and we're here to help get your seasons rolling with quality equipment, gifts, apparel, and more. Get a FREE AYSO Sack Pack with your next $30

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American Youth Soccer Organization



MANAGING EDITOR Carlos Funes ART DIRECTOR Jennifer Otenti GRAPHIC DESIGNERS Larry Martinez Nick Kaufman ADVERTISING SALES Mike Grigorian 424-221-7928 NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS President: Michael Karon Vice President, Administration: Eileen Tabert Vice President, Risk Management: Maurice Miranda Vice-President, Marketing & Communications: Dan Howald Treasurer: Doug Ryan Secretary: Margie Close Board Member: Yvette Barrett Board Member: Cathy Farless Board Member: Donna Nelson Board Member: Randy Pittman Board Member: Jeff Ransom NATIONAL OFFICE DIRECTORS Transitional Executive Director: Matt Winegar Director of Finance and Accounting: Annette Nastri Director of Marketing and Communications: Yvonne Lara Director of Human Resources: Jill Meshekow Director of Sport and Development: Scott Snyder

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Contents Letter from NED

Hear from AYSO’s National Executive Director Matt Winegar and his AYSO Story.


Get updated on the most recent AYSO news and events.

Give the Gift of Soccer

Learn how you can grow the beautiful game and give the gift of AYSO soccer!

My AYSO Story- Jen Gruskoff

Girls Soccer Network founder and editor in chief shares her amazing AYSO Story.

How Two Siblings Ref’d their way to AYSO Residential Camp

Read about how two very driven AYSO players from Region 785 are standing out as referees.

Two Parents & Three Sets of Twins Take on AYSO #SoccerSaturday

Hear from Ladera Ranch AYSO and how their region was the perfect home for a unique family.

AYSO Alum Francis Jacobs Becomes Youngest Male Pro in the US

We sat down with Orange County Soccer Club’s youngest professional American soccer player.

The AYSO Mission is to develop and deliver quality youth soccer programs, which promote a fun, family environment based on our philosophies: Everyone Plays®, Balanced Teams, Open Registration, Positive Coaching, Good Sportsmanship, Player Development.

PLAYSOCCER is published by the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) as a benefit of AYSO membership. Subscriptions are free to AYSO families. Editorial contributions are always welcome, but PLAYSOCCER assumes no responsibility for lost or stolen manuscripts, photographs, or other materials. © 2019 American Youth Soccer Organization, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form, in whole or in part, without written permission is strictly prohibited. Nonprofit postage paid at Main U.S. Post Office, Torrance, CA. EDITORIAL OFFICES PLAYSOCCER, 19750 S. Vermont Ave., Suite 200, Torrance, CA 90502 Dear Members: All photographs, stories, and other materials are welcome and will be considered for publication in PLAYSOCCER. PLAYSOCCER reserves the right to editorial comment on unsolicited materials. If you wish submitted materials be returned, please indicate and send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with original correspondence. Please do not send oneof-a-kind photos, irreplaceable artwork, or other such materials as it is possible these items might be lost, damaged, or destroyed during the magazine’s lengthy production cycle. Unless otherwise requested, PLAYSOCCER reserves the right to list any contributor’s name, age, Region, and/or hometown.

Happy 55th Birthday AYSO!

To celebrate AYSO’s 55th birthday we put together some of our favorite soccer moments.

Gage White's Successful Return to Club Soccer

Read about how this stellar goalkeeper came back to club soccer with the help of AYSO United.

The Impacts of Social Media and Screen Time on Youth Mental performance consultant Katie McKee explains the serious impacts social media can have on AYSO players.

Fall Coloring Contest

Print out & color this picture for a chance to win an AYSO prize pack!

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from the

National Executive Director

In 1998, my wife signed up our nine-year-old daughter for AYSO. As newer parents, we had heard of AYSO but knew absolutely nothing about soccer. I initially managed to avoid any volunteer activities, but as our other daughter also started playing in AYSO and she and her sister moved up through the divisions, I was “voluntold” to be trained as a referee-“no referees, no games!”. Actually, as unconfident as I was about my ability to referee, I looked forward to finally learning the difference between a goal kick and a corner kick! It turned out that I really enjoyed refereeing, and I got more experience as my daughters played on tournament teams and in Spring leagues, in addition to the Fall season. I also started making some very special friends who were also AYSO volunteers. To this day, my best friends are or have been AYSO volunteers. Eventually, I also got recruited to serve on the North Oxnard Region 304 Board, starting as CVPA (“whatever the heck that is”) and Safety Director. I was serving as an Assistant Regional Commissioner when the Regional Commissioner suddenly resigned and, viola! - I was now an acting Regional Commissioner. I was elected to the RC position by the Region 304 Board and served one term. That was my most fulfilling position in AYSO. I was later recruited to serve on the AYSO National Development Commission, including serving as Chair for several years. This provided me an opportunity to observe the National Board of Directors meetings and meet our AYSO national leaders. The Development Commission worked to develop and promote programs to help grow our Organization and bring more soccer to more kids. In my tenure with the Development Commission, we introduced the President’s Circle, which recognizes Region player growth, as well as the AYSO Labs and AYSO Playground programs. I also served on the National Nominating Commission. Apparently, I was a little outspoken and was recruited (there’s that word again) to run for the National Board of Directors. I was honored to have been elected to the NBOD at the 2016 National Annual General Meeting in Chicago. I was again recruited (!) to run for the position of National President and was elected in 2017. It was my privilege to serve as the leader of AYSO for two terms. I now have the opportunity to continue to serve AYSO in a leadership capacity. Since May 2019, I have served as the Transitional National Executive Director. This transition period will provide an opportunity for the NBOD to review the position description for the NED position and evaluate the skill set and experience that is desired for the permanent NED. I greatly enjoy working with the dedicated and enthusiastic AYSO Office team members as we address the various challenges that AYSO has faced over the past several years and work towards developing new solutions and providing the very best service to our AYSO volunteers and partners. I am very passionate about AYSO and the value it brings to our communities. I have seen the value that our volunteer training provides to develop volunteers and new AYSO leaders who have served in capacities that they never thought possible. I have seen how it can make a difference in the development of a child. My daughters both benefited from experiences with some truly special AYSO coaches who provided them with confidence and team experiences they never had with their club or high school sports teams. Staying involved with AYSO is my way of paying back the value AYSO has provided to my family.


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Tidbits Join Us At AYSO Expo 2020!

AYSO EXPOs are annual nationwide events hosted by Sections, that provide opportunities for training, certification and continuing education for all volunteers. They are also great networking avenues to connect with volunteers from surrounding Regions, that allow you to learn from one another. In addition to the training, there is a Sponsor/Vendor Show where you can meet AYSO National partners and local vendors in your communities that are providing services to help your programs. It is also a weekend where we celebrate the achievements of volunteers who go above and beyond in your community.

sessions, discussions and evening social events where attendees will be able to network with fellow AYSO United coaches. Baltimore, MD – Jan. 15 – 19, 2020

AYSO Area Director Training

In September, the AYSO office hosted 13 Area Directors from around the country for an AD Training weekend. This training included a tour of the office, stops with each department and specialized training for invigorating positive performance and growth in their respectful areas. Thank you for your service to the AYSO community and we can’t wait to see what else you will accomplish!

Mark your calendar to join us as we share ideas, stories and our love of soccer with other AYSO volunteers just like you! Section 3 Northeast Southbury, CT March 6-8, 2020

Sections 6/8 Midwest Naperville, IL Feb. 28 – March 1, 2020

Section 13 Williamsport, PA March 13- 15, 2020

Sections 2/9/12 Southwest Tuscon, AZ Feb. 28 – March 1, 2020

Section 7 Pacific Kapolei, HI July 24-26, 2020

Sections 1/10/11 Anaheim, CA March 20-22, 2020

For more info visit:

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Sections 5/14 Southeast Atlanta, GA Feb. 7-9, 2020

United Soccer Coaches Convention / AYSO United Technical Workshop

The 2020 AYSO United Technical Workshop will be held in conjunction with the United Soccer Coaches National Convention in Baltimore this January. The workshop is the ultimate opportunity for all of our clubs to participate in roundtables, field

AYSO Remembers

Dirk Keck AYSO is saddened to announce the passing of Dirk Keck, Regional Commissioner of Diamond Bar AYSO (Region 31) and longtime AYSO coach/referee. He will be missed dearly and his legacy of positive coaching will live on through Region 31 and AYSO. Our deepest condolences to his family and Region – thank you Dirk for your significant contributions to AYSO and youth soccer. Brendan Cravalho We were saddened to learn that long-time volunteer, Brendan Cravalho passed away on October 21. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends as well as his AYSO family during this very difficult time. Brendan’s service to AYSO over the last 30 years was far-reaching and he will be missed greatly. Service information Catholic Mass on Dec. 6, 10AM at John the Apostle Catholic Church in Mililani. Celebration of his life on Dec. 7, 5:30PM at Mililani Memorial Park and Mortuary Mauka Chapel. PLAYSOCCER


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As the holiday season draws near, the spirit of giving is here! This year, AYSO will launch our 2nd annual Give the Gift of Soccer campaign on Giving Tuesday, December 3 through December 31 2019, to raise funds and awareness for the Hugo Bustamante AYSO Playership Fund. The Hugo Bustamante AYSO Playership Fund provides soccer scholarships to young players in-need to ensure children with a desire to play soccer would be given the opportunity.

sparked a movement of generosity. In 2009, while helping coach the 10U girls’ team, Cypress Cyclones, Coach Bustamante led the team in a run towards their regional soccer championship. When his team found out that they would advance in the tournament only because their opponents, the Huntington Park American Eagles, couldn’t afford the travel costs, Bustamante made the noble decision to organize a fundraising effort to cover the team’s costs instead of having his own team advance.

At AYSO, we are committed to enriching the lives of children through the beautiful game and believe that soccer should be accessible for all, no matter a player’s socioeconomic status. In fact, Coach Hugo Bustamante held this very same belief 10 years ago when his small act of selflessness

Sadly, just weeks after his fundraising efforts sent the Huntington Park American Eagles to the finals, Bustamante was tragically killed. His memory and kind-hearted spirit live on through the Hugo Bustamante AYSO Playership fund and all the young players who have now been given

the chance to play soccer because of his legacy of generosity. Giving the gift of soccer goes far beyond allowing a child to play a sport. It means giving a child the opportunity to experience community with their peers, to build friendships, to practice healthy habits, to grow in their confidence and to feel empowered as an individual and as a player! When you give the gift of soccer, you gift an experience to a child who might otherwise miss out on all the beauty this game and the AYSO community have to offer. This holiday season, be the reason a child smiles out on the field. Give the gift of soccer.



It’s hard to say precisely where my love of sports began. As a kid, rather as a GIRL, I was heavily influenced by my father and brother, who were always talking about football, basketball and baseball. Each sport had a language and terminology that was fascinating to me and I made it my business to learn these in the way an exchange student consumes the phrases of a new culture. Why? Who knows, that’s just the way I came wired. My favorite thing in the world back then was trading cards. This gave me the opportunity to study stats and get to know players more intimately. I literally had boxes full of them under my bed. By the time I was ten, I was


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the first girl to start a game pitching in an all-boys league in my hometown. To say I was a sports geek would be an understatement. I spent all my time at Roxbury Park when I wasn’t at home. There was always a reason to be there. Baseball practice, tag football or kickball. One day, the park supervisor talked to all the other “park rats” about a new league called AYSO that was coming to town. It was a sport called soccer, and they had boys and

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girls teams. He handed us a flyer and I went home and asked my mom to sign me up.

I had never heard the word “soccer” uttered in my life. Luckily, one of my school friends had signed up too and her mother was from Chile. She quickly gave me the run down but I couldn’t even absorb it because she kept calling it “football,” which she claimed was the most popular sport in the world. How could that be possible since I was an expert on sports and hadn’t heard of it?! She kept going could only use your feet, there were no time outs...something about red and yellow cards. This was a new world indeed.

I tried to learn as much as I could about the game before our first practice. Remember, back in the mid-’70s, there was no internet. I had to go to the library and even there, information was scarce. I do remember reading about a man named Pele who was supposed to be a big deal and thinking, “Who is this guy”. Pretty funny to me now. Luckily, the unknown didn’t scare me and a bunch of adolescent girls off. We showed up at the park and were met with a kind man who I remember fondly to this day. His name was Ed Thayer and he was the uncle of one of the girls on my team. He was honest with us from the start - he had never played the game before but he knew enough about it from his travels that he felt he could teach us something. His humble, self- effacing approach was different than most coaches even I had experienced even in my young life. He had me from “hello.” We’d practice once a week and as we got better, so did Coach Ed. He was getting excited when we’d pick up a move or try something new and brave. He could see I was an athlete and told me that just because no other girls on the team wanted to play goalie, I’d make a pretty good one. It gave me the confidence to step into that role for the next few years, something that I really fell in love with and became a kind of identity for me. My hand-eye coordination was strong from baseball and truth be told, I loved feeling special from the other girls in my more serious black, long sleeve jersey. That brief, three year period in AYSO planted the seed for a lifetime love of the beautiful game, even though shattering my wrist as a freshman in high school playing on a varsity team stopped me from continuing to play (I switched to tennis as my fall sport). Fast forward twenty years later when I had a daughter of my own and there was no question what sport I was going to introduce to her first. Soccer. Why? Because spending that brief time in AYSO opened my eyes to a sport that does more than teaching coordination and keep you in shape. Coach Ed got us to work together in a way I had never experienced in baseball or basketball and certainly tennis. The moving parts of the game and the discipline it took to keep all those parts in unison were not only challenging, but fascinating. It was both mental and physical with an emphasis on connectivity, always. My daughter was five whenAYSO I took her to her first AYSO practice, in United SoCal Girls 2001 won the Carlsbad Coastal Classic, the very same region that Idefeating startedone my soccertop journey on. I’m of Arizona’s ranked teams in the state.


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not going to lie it was slightly emotional for me. When the parent-coach asked if anyone wanted to be his assistant coach for this season, my hand involuntarily shot up. I had no idea what I was getting into but somehow, it felt like the right thing to do. Little did I know this moment would change my life forever. That one gesture opened up a world not only for me but my daughter as well. I went on to coach AYSO teams for another four years, and my daughter continued to play for many years after that. Today, I am the founder of Girls Soccer Network, a media company whose mission is to inspire girls and create content around the women’s game. This certainly wasn’t my plan when I met Coach Ed, or took my daughter to her first practice but it’s what happened when I realized that there is no better way to positively influence and impact a young girl’s life than sports, specifically soccer. AYSO is both a part of my story and my daughters and I will be forever grateful for the impact it’s had on our lives. To learn more about Jennifer Gruskoff and Girls Soccer Network visit

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How Two Siblings Ref’d their way to AYSO Residential Camp Let’s face it, being a referee is challenging, from working to keep the game safe, fair and fun for everyone involved, they also need to be conscious of players, substitutes, officials, coaches, spectators and their very own assistant referees. This calls for a deep sense of self-awareness.

scope of their involvement with their communities. You can really see how the perspective gained from their referee experience has helped them on the field and their knowledge of the game. Jacobo and Pita are a real credit to North Park AYSO, to Section 11, and to AYSO,” said Simpson.

And while many may not rise to this challenge, two AYSO siblings have taken the challenge head-on and some would even say, love it. Siblings, Pita and Jacobo not only play soccer, they volunteer in their home AYSO Region 785 to make sure other kids have the same opportunity. Their hard work, passion and selflessness were rewarded this summer when their San Diego community of North Park sponsored them to attend AYSO Residential Camp.

Jacobo and Pita had no idea the praise they received would lead to an opportunity like Residential Camp. The pair’s humility wouldn’t let them think there would be a reward for giving so much of their time to volunteering.

The AYSO Residential Camp is a five-day camp hosted by AYSO staff and volunteers that focuses on the complete development of a player both on and off the field. Players learn key elements needed to be a successful teammate, as well as the skills to develop a level of personal responsibility to succeed in school and beyond through the help of experienced soccer coaches and mentors. Fortunately, for Pita and Jacobo, one of the mentors this week was AYSO’s own Referee Program Manager and National Referee Council member, Taidgh Simpson. “It’s fantastic to see the next generation of referees and the


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“I guess our names were brought up in an AYSO board meeting for refereeing the most youth games and they decided we should get a chance to go to Residential Camp,” shared Jacobo on how they found out about their sponsorship. “I honestly had no idea we would get something for that.” Pita, 15, his older sister, is no stranger to volunteering. She regularly volunteers with AYSO, YMCA and goes to Tijuana, Mexico with her mother to help families in need. To her, selflessness and giving back is a way of life. At a time where the pressures of school, sports and social life are usually the focal points of a 15 year-old’s life, Pita places her focus on the betterment of those around her. Nonetheless, finding out that she would be rewarded for her altruism prompted excitement.

“We referee at least one or two games a week because we like to get out there and help because referees are vital for games. It's helpful to know what's legal and what's not legal. And it's really helped us. So when they were talking about how we were coming to this camp, we were super excited because we both love soccer, it's just a great opportunity,” said Pita. For Jacobo, his rise to refereeing came from a different perspective. The ambitious youngster didn’t always have a positive view of referees. He needed to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes until he could see where referees were coming from - a lesson Jacobo has learned well. “For me, I wanted to start being a ref because as a player, I always

thought the refs were really bad and I wanted to be a good ref, like one of the only good refs and then I found out the refs were actually really, really good and I just didn't know the rules,” said Jacobo. Now back home and in the midst of fall season, their Region administrators are more than glad to have them back. Pita and Jacobo are still known to show up every weekend to referee several of the 18 games they have on any given weekend. They have been referees for three years now and earned acclaim from their Regional Referee Administrator, Dan Joseph. "Pita and Jacobo are amazing kids. They referee with their dad as the center referee and many times without his presence. Pita

and Jacobo are very bright youth referees and I seldom find errors in their judgment calls,” said Joseph. “They provide excellent coverage for the weekend matches and their great nature and professionalism are some of the top reasons why we selected and sponsored them for the Residential Camp.” Jacobo and Pita are not big in stature and can be seen as 'too young' by the crowds who don't know their age. But if you take a walk around the North Park fields at Morley Park you’ll be sure to observe these referees standing tall - raised by their confidence in refereeing. When the final whistle blows, Jacobo and Pita will head back to the referee tent, not to take a break but straight towards Joseph to ask about calls the center referee made

or calls they made for clarification. Actions like this add to the long list of reasons they were chosen for the Residential Camp. “These kids are the future of refereeing. I expect great things from them and fully expect them to take on key referee positions in the future. And they can one day take my job,” said Al Prado, National referee and Section 1 Director of Referee Instruction. With those words, it is safe to say the future of refereeing in AYSO is in good hands with Jacobo and Pita and the other players they inspire with their service. We can’t wait to see what else their future has in store with Region 785 and beyond.




Two Parents &

Three Sets of Twins Take on AYSO #SoccerSaturday

Near the end of last season, we got to sit down and talk to a very unique soccer family about their AYSO soccer experience. Six kids pile into a van, soccer bags ready, cleats in hand and bubbling with energy while part-time AYSO referee and fulltime soccer dad, Mike Jansta, is getting behind the wheel, ready to drive this small group to a long day at the field. It was just another day of AYSO soccer for this father, but for anyone else, it could be something right out of a blockbuster family movie. Every weekend, Mike and his wife Lisa, prepare for a full Soccer Saturday at the field with their six kids, three sets of twins in Ladera Ranch, CA (Region 1455). He and his wife Lisa are a stellar team of soccer parents that both find amazing ways to stay involved with each of their soccer star’s AYSO days. From parenting to volunteering, this pair gets the best out of AYSO with their unique family. Mike knew that having six kids would mean long days of dad duties but spending long days at the soccer field was an unexpected surprise. A life-long baseball fan, he never thought he’d be giving all his time to the beautiful game of soccer at this point in his life. His story of refereeing came to be so he could be

more involved in all of his kids’ games while juggling a busy work schedule. “When you have 6 kids, being a coach is difficult because someone is going to get left out,” said Mike. “So, when they asked for volunteers, I knew I could figure something out. Refereeing made the most sense, I could get some exercise, be allowed to referee the kids’ games up to a certain age and have the best seat in the house for some of their games.” Each pair of twins came as a great surprise for Mike and Lisa. As they all became old enough to play sports, he began to look for the best possible organization that would fit his family and AYSO was the best option. They were able to accommodate their needs and ensure each child had a partner in their age group when possible. The three pairs of twins include Boy and Girl 11-yearolds, that play on their own 12U teams, identical 10-year-old boys on the same 10U team and fraternal 9-year-old boys on their own 10U teams. Janice Lugo, Regional Commissioner of Ladera Ranch AYSO, knew she had an amazing group joining her region from the moment she heard about them. “When we heard at in-person Registration that there was a family with 3 sets of

twins that registered, we were all amazed. Honestly, if one family in our region wasn't going to volunteer, I would think this family had a great excuse with kids on four different teams, however, I was even more amazed when I saw Mike out there refereeing games,” recalled Lugo about the Jansta family. “He has refereed 108 games for our region since he started volunteering for us!” Their family’s soccer partnership has grown as the children have gotten older and his kids have joined him in the refereeing ranks. “They have a great youth referee program in Ladera Ranch and they really encourage parents to bring their kids into the program, so my kids became regional referees,” Mike said. “It helps them learn the ins and outs of the game more in depth. From knowing how to play teams off side to knowing when to make well-timed run while staying on sides.”

With the help of Regional Referee Administrator, Tony Tiengtum, the Jansta family has received insightful referee training that has developed them into stellar volunteers within Ladera Ranch AYSO. “The Jansta family has been a fantastic example of AYSO principles and community volunteerism,” shared Tiengtum. “Mike and Lisa have been great to our program. Mike will stick around a field all day to make sure kids get to play, while Lisa is shuttling their kids from game to game. In addition, Lucas and Sabrina (two eldest twins) have started refereeing games to give back to Region 1455. Sometimes I wonder how they keep track of it all.” While the two eldest begin to dip their toes in the world of refereeing, the other four will continue to do what they do best – love playing soccer. “The oldest two are both youth referees starting this year. In fact, all 3 of us are refereeing a 10U semi-

final match tomorrow morning with me at center and Lucas/Sabrina as assistant referees,” said Mike. Whether the whole family continues refereeing or not, they are still a model soccer family for their Region and Janice Lugo is glad to have them. “As volunteers, we believe in giving back to our community and Mike is no makes me smile seeing the next generation of Janstas refereeing on our fields,” said Lugo. “Mike is a great example to his children and they are learning important life lessons while spending quality time together. In addition, his wife Lisa supports Mike as it is a two-person effort every Saturday, between their own children's games and the volunteer portion. We are really blessed to have them in our region.” And we are honored to have them as part of our AYSO family.




FRANCIS JACOBS Becomes Youngest Male Pro in the US


t the Orange County Soccer Club training fields you can find a 14-year-old training with forwards and be hard pressed to figure out which one he was, with blazing shots at a pace you usually only see from professionals. With the average age of the training group being 26, the 14-year-old doesn’t appear to be a step behind. The kid is none other than Francis Jacobs, now, the youngest male professional player in the US, after he signed with the Orange County Soccer Club in July at the age of 14 years, 4 months, 29 days and he is working hard to show why he belongs there. Days like this are his favorite since signing with the United Soccer League (USL) Championship team. When asked what his favorite thing of being a pro so far, Francis answered simply, “Probably just practicing every day.” This love of playing the game with no frills, for the love it, can be traced back to his AYSO soccer days. Francis played AYSO from kindergarten through 5th grade, a total of five years with AYSO Laguna Beach, Region 86. His mother Cindy Jacobs was a big proponent of keeping Francis involved with the core program, attributing much of his love for the game to his days of orange slices and Soccer Saturdays. “I have many memories of him training with AYSO. We had some great AYSO coaches, who helped pave the way for him to be here today, not only with their enthusiasm but taking the time to teach the kids the rules, camaraderie, working hard and being a good teammate,” shared Cindy.


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Looking at his player journey, Francis has been fortunate to have a good base of coaches along the way. From his dedicated AYSO coaches, to his newest mentors with Orange County Soccer Club, Francis recognizes their effort. First team assistant coach and former Swiss professional, Didier Crettenand, and veteran players, like US National team’s Michael Orozco, are taking Francis under their wing to ensure that he has the foundation for a good experience. “Michael Orozco, and Didie...they both help me out a great deal and everyone involved with the club, from the players to the coaches, are all really nice,” shared Francis. Orozco had a start similar to Francis, leaving to play full-time in Mexico at the age of 16 and enjoying a 17-year career south of the border before returning to his native Orange County. That shared experience is as asset to help train Francis both on and off the pitch. “We want him to develop to be the best soccer player he can be but it's a long we need time,” said Crettenand. “It's not easy with a young player like him to train with the first team of professional guys, who average between 25-30 years old but he’s doing well and I’m with him to focus on his weaknesses.”

This trust in youth talent isn’t a new initiative for Orange County. Just before the 2018 USL Championship season, they signed another young AYSO alumni to a professional contract at the age of 15-years-old,


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professional team but we feel so strongly about our community, the talent and we are committed to bring in younger players to develop them in a professional structure to set them up for success.” Ultimately, the journey for Francis is just beginning, from AYSO to Orange County Soccer Club and the US Youth National Team, he’s enjoying every bit of this adventure. standout goalkeeper, Aaron Cervantes, from AYSO Region 779 in Chino Hills. Under Orange County Soccer Club’s tutelage, Cervantes’ development has been on track, recording 3 shutouts in 11 starts this past season, coming in at #9 of the USL 20 under 20 list and punching his ticket to the 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil with the United States U-17 national team. Francis is taking notes from his US teammates and paving his own way within the US national game. On October 21, he scored the game winning goal in the US U-15 Boys’ National Team match-up against Iceland in the UEFA Development Tournament in Poland. Orange County Soccer Club President of Soccer Operations and General Manager, Oliver Wyss, has been the driving force behind their youth movement and seems to have the right mindset when bringing on these rising stars to his team. A Swiss-American with a resume that includes time with the Swiss Youth National Team and a professional career in the Swiss first division, Wyss has a good understanding of what it takes in managing and evaluating talent.

“It's been a short journey, but a wonderful one. And I hope it's a very long journey from here. We've enjoyed every minute and we're just so proud to watch him play,” said Cindy. “We look forward to many more years of being able to watch him on the field, having fun, working hard and enjoying his teammates.” For now, Orange County Soccer Club is going to take it slow and keep a careful eye on Francis’ development and manage expectations, a process he fully understands and is ready to put the work in for. His humility and eagerness to learn has helped his transition to the professional life come with ease and AYSO is proud to have been a part of his illustrious player career. “My first goal is to make the starting lineup. It's going to be hard, but that's what comes first and then I can go from there,” said Francis. There are amazing things to come from this AYSO alum and we are excited to see what happens next in his soccer journey. We hope his love of the game continues to shine bright.

“We had Francis training with us since May, we closely evaluated him, had him scouted before knowing him and we felt that he was ready for the next step,” said Wyss. “Yes, we want to win USL cups and championships like any other Photos courtesy of Orange County SC



Five soccer fans founded AYSO; Hans Stierle, Bill Hughes, Steve Erdos, Ralph Acosta and Ted McLean. The halftime orange slice trend begins this year:

Girls are officially welcomed into AYSO. University of Washington women’s head coach Lesle Gallimore was one of the members of the first girls’ teams.







The AYSO Hall of Fame was established to identify and acknowledge those extraordinary individuals who have made a historic contribution to the foundation, growth, enrichment and positive reputation of AYSO and the sport of soccer for children.


Pelé visited the AYSO National Office to take photos, sign autographs, and speak to volunteers and players.

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Ken Aston Learning/Training Center is dedicated at the AYSO National Office.

AYSO Alum Legend Landon Donovan becomes the USMNT all-time leading scorer, surpassing another AYSO alum, Eric Wynalda

In 1964, AYSO was born when a group of soccer enthusiasts decided that they needed to grow the beautiful game of soccer in the United States. Founded in a garage in Torrance, Calif. with just nine teams and a few volunteers, they laid the groundwork for what is now the world’s biggest soccer club. AYSO now has thriving programs for kids and adults in nearly 800 communities all over the country – and internationally in the Virgin Islands and Trinidad and Tobago – over eight million AYSO alumni, and a name that’s recognized nationwide. It has been an amazing 55 years and to celebrate this amazing milestone we want to take you through some of the best moments that brought us to this moment. AYSO holds its first National Games competition in Irvine, Calif. True to AYSO’s philosophies, teams are selected by lottery.

The Very Important Player (VIP) program is established for children with special needs to truly embody the philosophy of “Everyone Plays®”







AYSO establishes its first official club program, AYSO United, with 18 AYSO United locations operating in 12 States.

AYSO officially becomes a member of the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).

AYSO renames the National Open Cup to, The Sigi Schmid AYSO Open Cup, in honor of the all-time winningest head coach in Major League Soccer history and member of the inaugural class of the AYSO National Hall of Fame in 1996.

AYSO celebrates 55 years and looks forward to many more anniversaries ahead as more children discover the beautiful game and the legacy of AYSO continues within families and communities nationwide. PLAYSOCCER



SUCCESSFUL RETURN TO CLUB SOCCER Sometimes a break from the club soccer game can be a good one, especially when a player isn’t in a developmentally suitable environment. For some players, the club soccer scene can be seen as a harsh place with downsides such as unfair playing time, social pressure, and huge requirements of time and money from parents. All of this comes without a guarantee that a child will receive significant playing time or development as a player and a person – resulting in the player leaving the game. One person affected by the tempestuous club landscape was, 17-year-old AYSO United goalkeeper, Gage White. In 2016, Gage’s father, Ryan White, received a job offer that required relocation during Gage’s freshman year of high school from Utah to Arizona. At 14 years-old, Gage found himself adjusting to a new environment in a new school and as a member of a new soccer club. He felt that club soccer was the one thing that would make his new home feel like home and based off his past experiences, expected a good experience from this new team. Unfortunately, the result wasn’t what he expected. Gage found himself in an unhealthy playing atmosphere, where he wasn’t being developed and at risk of injury.

“I had talked to the coach before moving and was assured that his team would be competitive. He said they wouldn't win every game, but they would be competitive,” shared his dad Ryan White. “We didn't want Gage to be on a team where he would not be challenged, so being competitive sounded great. When we got here and went to the training and tryout, it seemed okay, but we got into the season and it was so bad.” After a tough six months with his first Arizona club, Gage knew it was time to either find a new team or take a break. It was then that Gage received a call from a team he had just played offering him a new club to call home. Gage’s team had just lost 14-0 to this team a few a weeks prior but after a great show of heart and resilience, many of the parents in attendance noticed there was a special player in goal, no matter the result. “We lost like 14 to 0 but after the game their parents all came up to me shaking my hand and telling me to keep my head up,” said Gage. “And then a couple weeks later I get a call from a team dad to come play for them. I don’t know how they found me, but I played a few tournaments with them and I just didn’t get a good feel for them.” The final result with this new club still wasn’t good and it was then that he decided he needed to step away from the game he loved and focus his energy on football instead. He became the kicker for his high school football team, and joined the volleyball team but there was still something missing. He knew he wanted to get back to playing soccer and after a two-year hiatus, he made his return. The return started when his friend Matthew Godinez, an AYSO United Arizona player, convinced Gage to come out to an AYSO United tryout. Matthew was eager to have Gage come and check out the club that he himself had fallen in love with. All Gage knew for certain was that he wanted to play on a state level team that would make him feel welcomed – AYSO United fit the criteria. An athlete who is technically talented with a clear voice on the field, Gage quickly caught the attention of AYSO United Arizona Director of Coaching, Ed Alameda. “When I saw Gage during tryouts I was very impressed with his physical ability, his size and of course his skill. What is most impressive about Gage is his leadership,”


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said Alameda. “There are many players who are technically skilled but who do not have the confidence and character to be great leaders. I remember speaking to him after tryouts and asking him what he thought about what he saw. He told me he was very impressed with the level and speed of play of the boys trying out. Gage told me he initially was looking at trying out for another team, but felt like this is where he wanted to be.” Gage definitely knew he had finally found the right club soccer experience. "I felt that there was more talent at AYSO United and the chemistry was better,” said Gage. “The way players interacted with each other was much better than the other clubs. They welcomed me at tryouts even though they didn’t really know me – it was great.” Gage isn’t the only one to be affected positively by the club change. His father has also embraced AYSO United. “AYSO United has given Gage the opportunity to get training at the highest level and has excel as a keeper and it is due to the training. Gage has always had the athleticism to go far, but with the training, tools and resources that AYSO United has offered, he has


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a legitimate chance to pursue his dream to play college soccer,” said White. “It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the other clubs he played with.”

with the team chemistry that they already have, they [coaches] can put players really anywhere and know they’ll still perform. That’s what was amazing to me.”

Gage has already found some personal success with AYSO United Arizona. In just his first year, he has made it into the Olympic Development Program (ODP) player pool and made the first cut for the West Regional ODP Team. In July of this year, he was one of seven goalkeepers invited to the ODP tryouts in Oregon, a weeklong tryout that had nearly 80 players hoping to make a 30-man roster that would eventually become an 18-man roster. From Oregon, Gage was selected as one of the four keepers before the final cut. Gage attributes making it this far to the help of Ed Alameda, and his high level goalkeeping training that provided exponential growth in his development.

Gage’s story demonstrates that with a player-centered environment, players will learn and enjoy the most soccer has to offer. And in AYSO United Arizona, it all started with a positive coach relationship that has met Gage’s technical, tactical and social needs.

“Another major part of why I joined was the goalkeeper training that Coach Ed offers personally. He definitely knows what he’s talking about and it’s very reassuring when I come to him with questions,” said Gage. “And as far as the team goes, it’s a lot of fun. Key players can be missing from a game but

With the final ODP roster having been decided this past August, Gage was chosen as an alternate to the primary goalkeeper. Nonetheless, Gage is prepared and patient for the call up if the team needs him. Meanwhile, he’s going to make the best of the club soccer environment he has grown to love and trust thanks to the help of Coach Ed Alameda and AYSO United. “I’m going to do my best to help the team be successful,” said Gage. “They can trust me to use my feet, my hands, trust my shot stopping ability, distribution and trust me to be at every training. I’m going to work hard and make sure I’m focused.”



By Katie McKee

Social media. Screen time.

They are a part of our daily lives. Because so much of life now revolves around screens and social media, we thought it was a great time to address this dynamic and provide you with tips and tools to help navigate this sometimes tricky part of life. If you’re like me, you too get sucked down the rabbit hole of social media and screen time. Roughly 78-88% of people ages 18-49 use at least one form of social media. Chances are you know a youngster or have one yourself who has access to things like Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and can be glued to a screen with content at their fingertips. Schools even use screens as an educational tool nowadays. As of a 2015 study, teens are consuming media nearly 9 hours a day, and kids between ages 8-12 spend on average nearly 6 hours a day. I sometimes miss the days where social media, smartphones, and screens weren’t such a major part of daily life, but the fact is they’re here to stay, so it’s important for parents and coaches to understand the impacts they have, both positively and negatively.

Let’s look at some pros and cons:

CON: There’s a part of the brain called the frontal lobe, and one of its jobs is to decode social interactions. Too much time on screens can interfere with the development of the frontal lobe, therefore affecting one’s ability to read social cues, as well as how to act and react in social settings. Screens can also slow the development of language and creative thinking amongst younger users when overused.

CON: Social media can create comparisons and pressures that are unhealthy and unreal. Think about the basic premise of Instagram; post pictures, get likes. Pretty soon, one finds themselves posting


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things only for the likes, and when those likes don’t match the expectations, it can lead to disappointment, stress, anxiety, and sometimes even depression. We sometimes see this amongst youth athletes when social media is used for exposure. Youth (and sometimes parents) want the best opportunities to excel, be seen and network. In today’s world, one of the most common ways to do that is to create a sport or athlete specific social media account. These types of accounts are a place for an athlete to showcase their talents and gain exposure to teams, coaches, and programs they might not have had access to otherwise. While that may lead to some wonderful opportunities, it can also have some downsides that should be considered as well. Things like unhealthy comparisons, false expectations, false confidence, and stress can be a direct result of a social media account with the sole purpose of exposure. CON: Social media also tends to heavily favor only the “positives”. Most accounts prefer not to post the hardships, mess-ups, or failures that are a part of life and sport. Seeing only the “good stuff” can create unreal expectations, affect confidence and self-esteem. CON: Social media can create a sense of selfishness, where self-promotion trumps team promotion or humility. In some extreme cases, young athletes skip team practices or functions but still post self-promotion content to their accounts when they were supposed to be with their team. In many sports, and especially soccer, it’s a great idea to foster a team first mentality. PRO/CON?: In addition to creating accounts that are geared towards self enhancement and highlighting one’s personal talents, social media is also a place where youth can follow other athletes to learn skills and get tips that might help their own athletic endeavors. This can be a pro and a con, dependent on the content. PRO: Social media/screen time can create a love of learning. PRO: Social media can expose youth athletes to techniques or drills they might not have known about otherwise. PRO: Screen time can help develop the skills and brain function necessary to succeed in such a fast paced, technological world. PRO: At the very minimum, they are a way to communicate with friends and family. PRO: Active screen time, defined as cognitive and/or physical engagement in the process of device usage, can benefit learning beyond that of “mindless” screen time, by presenting users with challenges as well as intriguing content.

Youth are still figuring out who they are and how they tick. While social media brings with it a lot of real side effects, it doesn’t mean that those side effects will happen to your child. But they are certainly possible. The key is to be open and honest about the pros and cons of social media and screen time, and to set boundaries as to how you prefer it to be used in your house and on your team. I know it can seem overwhelming and you might be unsure how to proceed. There isn’t one right answer, but there are some things you can do to. 1. Set clear boundaries and limits. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children between the ages of two and five should use screens for less than one hour per day. For older kids, two hours a day is a good limit. Be clear with your kiddos and players about what the boundaries are. The Positive Coaching Alliance created a social media contract that is also great for teams. You can check it out here. 2. Emphasize academics and educational content. Social media and screen time can be a great tool for learning, and when used right, can benefit youngsters on and off the field. Just keep tabs on what they are watching and who they are following. 3. Talk about the pros and cons. Talk about the benefits and downsides of screen time and social media, so the ugly parts of social media have less of an influence on their confidence and self-esteem. 4. Delay giving kids a Smartphone. I know it’s hard, but see how long you can hold off. Whatever you decide, stick to it. 5. Be a good role model. You might find that following the boundaries and limits you set is hard, but try your best to be a good example for youngsters. Children learn from parents and coaches, so teach them that screens aren’t the most important priority. 6. Establish screen-free zones. At practice and games, at the dinner table, during certain times throughout the day. For kids and adults alike, establish these rules and stick to them. Make promoting healthy habits a family affair! Katie McKee, M.A., is a Mental Performance Consultant and AYSO coach in the Redondo Beach, CA area. She works with players, teams, coaches, and parents on the mental side of performance. For more information or to get in touch with Katie, please visit her website

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COLOR A PICTURE! Contest winners will receive an AYSO prize pack. There are two ways to enter the contest: you can mail in your entry to: PLAYSOCCER, 19750 s. Vermont ave., Suite 200 , Torrance, CA 90502 or email SocialMedia@AYSO.Org. All entries must be received by by December 9, 2019. Finalists will be placed on Facebook soon after. To see past winners, visit




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