By Karyn Ellis | Board member, AYSO Region 25
Local registration for American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) is underway, but without the leadership of three of the strongest supporters of the program this area has seen. For the first time in more than a decade, Don Yates, MJ Lee and Lowell Sears will not be on the AYSO board of directors, forming teams and scheduling coaches, fields, practices and referees.
The three are retiring from the board after a collective 20-plus years at the helm of the local region and more than 80 years of combined service to youth soccer players in Woodside, Portola Valley, Ladera and the mountain communities along Skyline Boulevard.
Yates, who first coached for AYSO in 1973, later refereed, and eventually joined the board, serving as regional commissioner from 2011 to 2014. He is handing over the top spot to Malcolm Friedberg, who also has a long history in local youth soccer. Raised in Ladera, Friedberg played AYSO in Region 25 as a child from 1972 to 1982. Yates will continue to referee and act as a regional referee instructor.
Sears, who refereed his first AYSO game in 1989 and has served on the board as regional referee administrator since 2007, will be replaced by Randy Von Feldt.
Lee, who began refereeing in 1997 and has been child and volunteer protection advocate since 2009, will be replaced by Kristi Travers. Sears and Lee will continue to referee and help with training.
"Don, MJ and Lowell have been tremendous ambassadors of the sport," Friedberg said. "They've shepherded Region 25 through a pivotal time when interest in soccer has exploded and they ensured that the local AYSO region kept up with the tide."
The coming years will see a lot of changes, Friedberg said. "We have plans to vitalize the region by increasing enrollment, improving communication and organization, and streamlining registration," he said. "It will be an exciting time and a great way to bring the community together around a sport we love."
The new board plans to announce teams and practice dates before school begins to allow for seamless integration with other activities. The region also will introduce TeamSnap, a web-based team management system that many other local organizations use. This will provide a familiar interface so families can better manage their calendars and carpools.
"It will make life easier for parents, coaches and volunteers," incoming registrar Cate Styer said.
Other changes in store: New uniforms, more training and written materials for volunteer coaches, and stronger community outreach.
AYSO was established in 1964 in the Los Angeles area with nine teams. Today, it has more than 650,000 players and 50,000 teams. Over the years, AYSO has revolutionized youth sports with its "everyone plays" and "balanced teams" philosophies, which guarantee that all children have a chance to enjoy their time on the field.
Region 25 serves Woodside, Portola Valley, Emerald Hills, La Honda and the mountain communities along Skyline Boulevard. It was the first region founded in Northern California and will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018.
Go to ayso25.org for more information and to register.