The Greater Johnstown region of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) is now registering for spring soccer! The co-ed league plays from April through early June at Kidsport, which is located off Glessner Avenue, and is open to all kids aged 4-19 regardless of age or athletic ability.
AYSO is a national organization that was founded to give kids a positive experience with organized sports. Its philosophies are based on research into why kids like to play sports, and why they quit. Essentially, AYSO found that kids find sports fun when they’re making friends, being active, and learning the game – but they want to quit when they don’t get to play, or there’s too much pressure to win.
So AYSO de-emphasizes the competitive aspect of sports in favor of the following philosophies:
Everyone Plays: Every player on every team plays at least 50% of every game. This takes the pressure off players who are less experienced or athletic – and puts the focus on playing and having fun.
Balanced Teams: Each year we form new teams as evenly balanced as possible (in ability, gender, age, experience), because it’s more fun and a better learning experience when teams of similar ability play.
Open Registration: Our program is open to all children between 4 and 19 years of age who want to register and play soccer. Interest and enthusiasm are the only criteria for playing. There are no try-outs and nobody gets cut. We welcome players with special needs.
Positive Coaching: Encouragement of player effort provides for greater enjoyment for the players and leads to better-skilled and better-motivated players. A coach can be one of the most influential people in a child’s life, so AYSO requires that coaches create a positive experience for every player.
Good Sportsmanship: We strive to create a positive environment based on mutual respect rather than a win-at-all-costs attitude, and our program is designed to instill good sportsmanship.
Player Development: We believe that all players should be able to develop their soccer skills and knowledge to the best of their abilities, both individually and as members of a team.
How to Register for the Season
The Greater Johnstown region of AYSO serves about 400 kids every year. The youngest kids are in a special program called Playground, which is a series of parent-child sessions that build soccer skills. Everyone else is in a league divided into 2-year age groups by calendar year (rather than school year). We have a couple of weeks of practice in late April. Games begin in May, and conclude in early June.
Registration is $65 per child, with $5 off for succeeding siblings. The money pays for AYSO national fees, field rental, and uniforms and equipment – all coaches, referees, and board members are volunteers.
We always need more volunteer coaches, referees, and board members. We provide training free of charge, and kids as young as 13 can become referees.
Registration is open now through Feb. 1 at our website, www.gjayso.org. In addition, we will hold three in-person registration days at Westmont Elementary School on Wed., Jan. 15 and Thurs., Jan. 16 from 6:00-8:00 pm, and on Sun., Jan. 19 from 3:00-5:00 pm. Board members will be present to assist you in registering your child(ren) online and answer any questions you might have.
We really want for kids to get to play soccer. This year, GJAYSO has some scholarship money to assist families experiencing financial hardship – details on how to apply are on our website at www.gjayso.org.
AYSO offers optional tournaments for kids 10U and older who want to play AYSO soccer in a more competitive setting. These take place after the regular season is over, in late June and early July – your coach will tell you about them.
And finally, a personal note
My daughter, Linnea, has played AYSO soccer since she was about 7. Today, she’s 16, and has just completed her sophomore season as a varsity player at Westmont. At one away game, Westmont was leading by a healthy margin. I overheard one of the opposing team’s parents remark that one of the reasons Westmont had so many good players was that there’s a strong AYSO region that serves as a feeder.
Naturally, that remark made me sit up a little straighter in my seat. You see, I’ve been serving on the AYSO board for six or seven years, and continue to enjoy it immensely. But I can honestly say that while it’s exciting to watch some of our players develop into varsity athletes, it’s even more satisfying to see all our kids have a fantastic time while learning good sportsmanship. That’s a skill that serves them well in every aspect of life, regardless of whether they continue to play soccer or any other sport as they get older.
Find Out More
You can read a lot more about Greater Johnstown AYSO on our website, www.gjayso.org, where you’ll also find a contact email. We also maintain a Facebook group where you can ask questions – just search for Greater Johnstown AYSO. We look forward to a fantastic spring season, and hope your family will be part of it!
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