Across the Rail City, parks and fields are full of kids eager to learn and take part in what is known around the world as ‘the beautiful game.’ Since 1978, Sparks AYSO has been providing that opportunity to local children and has become a staple within the community.
A large part of the reason AYSO has been such a successful organization in Sparks as well as across the nation is because of the positive approach taken to teaching the game. At the foundation of AYSO are its six philosophies: everyone plays, balanced teams, open registration, positive coaching, good sportsmanship and player development. It is that environment which the AYSO creates that welcomes many newcomers to the sport of soccer.
“I think AYSO is special and popular because it’s a really good entry point for both the parents and kids because it’s really friendly whether you’re really into soccer or you just want to try it out,” said Jena Casci, coach of the U-8 division Sabres. “It’s a great place to start for getting your kids into soccer.”
Regardless if players are starting off at a young age or want to get into the sport a little older, Sparks AYSO accepts everyone with divisions ranging from U-5 to U-19. There is also a V.I.P. program that was established in 2002 for kids with special needs. It is that amount of focus placed on making sure all children enjoy soccer that has families coming back for more.
“With AYSO, the kids may not be gunho about soccer, but they’re so happy to be out here and learning about soccer,” Casci said. “There’s a real team concept with AYSO. The kids get excited about their team name, team banner, and it’s a really cool identity for the kids.”
Another factor that adds to the amount of enjoyment AYSO brings to families is that it does not just get kids involved in the sport. Being a volunteer-based organization, parents take part in the action as well.
“I think the volunteer aspect of AYSO makes it unique in comparison to other leagues and clubs,” Casci said. “I think that it’s good in that it gets more people involved that would not normally maybe volunteer or be a part of soccer.”
For those parents that do choose to volunteer and coach a team, the payoff is just as rewarding as it is for the kids on the pitch.
“My favorite part of being a coach is teaching them something and then watching them learn it and use it in a game,” Casci said. “That puts the biggest smile on my face. It’s awesome. When I see them do a pullback or a spin move or just fake somebody out doing something special, I do a little happy dance.”