Almost sixty years to the day when World War II ended and peace was struck between the United States and Japan, cultural bridges continue to be built across the Pacific between the two nations.
The next generation is no exception as two Santa Monica American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) youth soccer teams, one with 15 girls and the other with 14 boys, left Monday for the 60-team Fujisan International Cup tournament in the Japanese city of Fujinomiya. Fujinomiya and Santa Monica are sister cities. The Santa Monica contingent includes the players (all under the age of twelve), parents, siblings, Santa Monica AYSO Region 20 Commissioner Maryanne LaGuardia and four coaches. Peter Meyer and Angel Vasquez coach the girl’s team and Dickie Pye and Steve Eyler coach the boys. The trip is a sequel to the Santa Monica AYSO girls team’s participation five years ago in the same tournament when they placed first.
The Japanese trip is preface to the fall 2005 AYSO season. With nearly 2,000 players, AYSO is Santa Monica’s largest youth sports league.
The first regular season games will be held at fields throughout the city on Saturday, September 10. League play continues through mid-December. All Star and tournament play will continue well into spring for some players.
AYSO strives to be “kid friendly” and is founded upon the principles of good sportsmanship, open registration, full participation and positive coaching. Santa Monica AYSO has a long tradition of athletic excellence as well. Many AYSO players have matriculated into the varsity soccer programs of local high schools, even beyond.
A good example is goal keeper Ari Zlotoff who played in Santa Monica AYSO for ten years. Ari went on to play varsity keeper at Santa Monica High School for three years. He was all-league first team both his junior and senior years at Samohi and is now a freshman at Santa Clara University on athletic scholarship.
Sign-ups for AYSO are still available. Fees are $120 per player registered before August 15, and $140 after that date. Registration fee assistance based upon need is available. Visit www.ayso20.org for instructions and completed registrations must be dropped off at Kramer Sporting Goods, 1727 Ocean Park Boulevard, Santa Monica (one block east of John Adams Middle School).Families who do not have access to the internet can pick up pre-printed registration materials at Kramers. Sign-ups include children aged 4-18.