It is the gift-giving time of year and I am reminded that we in Santa Monica are surrounded by a strong ethic of volunteerism – folks who give their time and effort not just during the holidays, but year round. Take youth soccer. On a cold, late Saturday afternoon several weeks ago, the games at Lincoln Middle School were winding down, everyone heading for home. The lone exception was volunteer Bart Auerbach. Perhaps in a weak moment, at the start of the season Auerbach had volunteered to chalk the fields for AYSO. By his estimate, he has spent 60 hours or so laying down lines over the course of the season. The life of the liner is a lonely one. He arrives early, long before the zooming kids and cheering parents, and stays late fixing the fields for the next day. If the liner does his job well, no one notices. Bart Auerbach’s predecessor of previous seasons, Brenden Maher, set a high standard.
Bart Auerbach is an essential part of the volunteer glue that holds our city’s largest youth league together. Each Saturday in the fall, AYSO fields over 1,500 youths aged 4-19. It is an all volunteer league, from the very top including co-Commissioners Jonny Balfus and Vincent Landay.
A trained, impartial referee corps is core to the league’s success, not just officiating play but occasionally reigning in over exuberant adults on the sidelines. Head referee David Story has labored mightily to build AYSO’s referee resources and to provide a full team of three officials at each older division game – a scheduling nightmare to be sure.
Commissioners Balfus and Landay take particular note of the AYSO volunteers who do not have children in the current program, including 25 referees and another 22 “community volunteer” coaches. Tammy Venters, for example, is Girls U6 Commissioner and coach. She oversees the myriad details of one of the largest divisions in terms of players. Andrew Denyer serves as Girls U14 Commissioner and coach. Anton Kavanaugh volunteered to coach not one, but two regular season teams and a tournament team over the Thanksgiving weekend. Other “community volunteer” coaches include Graham Wong (Coach at Large), Mike Maggiano, Declan Cooper, Mario Fonda Bonardi, and Xavier Kochar to name a few.
On a sad note, another AYSO volunteer, Blair Renshaw, passed away unexpectedly earlier this year. Renshaw had contributed countless hours as an AYSO Board Member, and he took the lead in transitioning AYSO’s operations online. The League’s annual 5 on 5 tournament has been named in his honor, and Renshaw’s legacy includes every visitor to www.AYSO20.org.
Youth sports may not be right for all children but for many it can be a very positive experience. I salute all the volunteers who make our youth leagues happen — baseball, soccer, basketball, rugby, whatever — starting with the fabulous chalk lines of Bart Auerbach.