Smiles all around at Proctor Park.
Photos-Kevin Montano-MHTS-MHTS Photo album
Far, far away from there, away from the bright lights and the millions of sponsorship dollars flooding in, a far more pure game with a more noble purpose attracted the eyes of a few hundred, right in our own backyard.
Such was the case as hundreds of area children took part in the AYSO Select Seven tournament at Utica’s Proctor Park on Saturday, June 14.
The annual regional event had a wide local appeal, as AYSO leagues from virtually every community imaginable in the area brought entries to compete across two divisions each for boys and girls in U10 and U12 classifications.
Teams played games in a seven-on-seven configuration, on a small field, with ten minute halves and an opportunity for substitution in the middle of each half.
The setup fits well into a youth sports participation philosophy that is gaining support around the country, including the AYSO organization: Give kids more opportunities to play and encourage the learning process, by also giving them more chances to touch the ball.
Tournament director, Mike Wessing, says it’s an opportunity to fufill the AYSO mission, by teaching lessons to all who participate both on and off the pitch.
“We’re teaching them the game of Soccer, but we’re also teaching them life skills,” Wessing said. “It’s about fitting into the philosophy of AYSO, everybody plays and we play fairly. This allows everyone to learn the skills of soccer. In other sports, you get a lot of situations where only the best players play.”
As you may expect, it takes a lot of manpower to put an event like this on and seemingly each person I came across was quick to point out the spirit of volunteerism that makes this event possible.
The organization’s strong volunteer base extends well beyond the parents of the participants.
Even pillars of the local soccer community, such as MVCC head coach, Bob Gould, could be seen refereeing on the pitch.
Area 3E Director, Mark Schmalz, had his children go through the program years ago and says his continued involvement is about paying it forward.
“I do it for the kids,” Schmalz said. “A lot of people have their own children here, but a lot of us have had our children go through this program and felt that it was so beneficial to them that they owed something back. I still come back and referee because it’s for the kids. It teaches them life lessons, teamwork and responsibility. They don’t realize it because they’re having so much fun playing soccer.”
When children and caring volunteers come together, everyone walks away a winner and that was certainly the case at Proctor Park on this windy Saturday.
The AYSO organization has leagues in many local municipalities and an “Open Registration” policy that encourages participation for every child. To get yourself, or your children involved, contact your local league.