“This is terrific for the community,” Garcia said. “The kids are having a great time. At the same time, they are learning good sportsmanship and fair play, and they are making a lot of new friends.”
Amidst the thump of feet striking soccer balls and the crack of small shin guards colliding, Patterson’s young athletes competed during a day loaded with 18 games.
The hopeful successors to U.S. soccer stars Tim Howard and Abby Wambach charged around fields in baggy shorts and cleats, showing their skills to loved ones.
Samuel Ochoa, 7, said this is his third year playing for the PYSA, and soccer is his favorite sport.
“I like to make goals and to play offense,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to be out here on the field.”
Samuel’s mother, Martha Ochoa, said she encourages her son to play organized sports because it’s great exercise.
“Soccer really helps him to keep active,” Ochoa said. “I also feel a lot of pride watching him on the field.”
The sun shone bright, the sky was a crisp blue, and the fields — softened from a recent pre-game sprinkling — were lush green. The players, scattered across four fields and ranging in age from 4 to 15, wore fresh new uniforms in a spectrum of colors.
Parents gathered in bunches on the sidelines, pausing their conversations to scream instructions at their children. Younger siblings played impromptu soccer games wherever they could find space.
“I look forward to this time of year,” said Kyle Sinclair, whose niece Makayla was playing on one of the under-6 girls teams. “I enjoy watching the kids develop into better players throughout the course of the season.”
The PYSA continues to grow each year, according to Garcia. This season, the league boasts 56 teams and more than 500 players.
Players are grouped according to age, with under-6, under-8, under-10 and under-12 boys and girls teams and under-15 co-ed teams.
“We want to make this an enjoyable experience for everyone,” Garcia said. “We believe we have a good program for this community that really loves its soccer.”
Keeping kids active is just one of the goals of the PYSA, which was formed in 2005. Garcia said in addition to the local boys and girls who take part in the league, there are several hardworking coaches and volunteers who help the program in a variety of ways.
Whether filling holes in fields by hand, blowing up balls, negotiating for field time, sticking Band-Aids on skinned knees or selling hot dogs and raffle tickets to raise money, Garcia said every effort helps.
“None of us get paid a cent for what we do, and that’s very important, because we do it for the love of the game,” Garcia said. “The key concept here is the community. I feel that this town loves the family atmosphere we create when soccer is played at the sports complex.”
Garcia added that the PYSA’s purpose is to operate soccer programs where young people can learn to develop constructive character traits and have positive learning experiences to reach their athletic potential.
“Our program is specifically focused on teaching the fundamentals of the game of soccer, and more importantly, having these soccer players continue to play the game for a lifetime,” Garcia said. “Our players can participate at a level that they feel comfortable and confident. We keep the pressure to perform at a minimum and really stress that this is a fun sport to be a part of.”
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or firstname.lastname@example.org