In 2009, there were over 1,300 soccer players in the program. While participation has dropped to around 1,175 kids this year, Sparks AYSO commissioner Lorie Shaw said the decrease is probably largely due to the economy and not necessarily a lack of interest in soccer or the program.
It costs $90 per kid to play, but discounts are given to families with multiple kids. Shaw said the number of kids playing on scholarship has increased by 80 percent this year, which goes along with the theory that the drop off in participation is economy related.
It’s important to allow as many kids the ability to participate in the program because of the values that are central to the AYSO.
“We provide world class youth soccer programs that enrich children’s lives and promote a fun, family environment based on AYSO’s Six Philosophies: Everyone Plays, Balanced Teams, Open Registration, Positive Coaching, Good Sportsmanship and Player Development,” Shaw said.
The Sparks AYSO is broken up into seven age groups: U5, U6, U8, U10, U12, U15 and U19.
There is also a separate V.I.P. program that was created in 2002 for kids with special needs of all types and abilities.
Depending on the division, teams play anywhere from eight to 12 games per year. The U10, U12 and U15 divisions also have postseason tournaments to decide league championships.
Most divisions only play Sparks-based opponents due to the size of the league. However, the upper divisions will take on teams from outlying areas around the region to fill their schedules.
In October, selection committees vote on All-Star teams for age groups U10 to U19 and they participate in the Kit Carson Tournament in November.
In the end, it’s all about the kids in the AYSO, and it’s just another example of a positive outlet for kids who enjoy sports.
“Happy, healthy kids are our passion,” Shaw said. “Every girl and boy stepping on a soccer field for the first time will have fun. With children’s enthusiasm for running and kicking, we build on these skills and add techniques to control the ball and work as a team. Kids learn decision making and strategic thinking. And in AYSO there’s no spending the game on the bench.”