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Local kids getting their kicks

Region 678 serves several communities, thousands of children

Posted: June 17, 2008 12:29 a.m.
Updated: August 18, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 

Leagues of their Own is a continuing series featuring stories behind local youth sports organizations.

The American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) Region 678 covers mostly Newhall, Valencia and Stevenson Ranch, as well as other smaller satellite communities.

The largest such league in the Santa Clarita Valley, there are over 2,200 children competing on over 170 teams.

"Soccer, while enormously popular with kids all over the country, still has a long way to go to get into the American sports mainstream," said Joe Franco, the Assistant Regional Commissioner for Competitive Teams (10 and over).

"For kids and parents, it's very cost effective, especially compared to youth football and baseball organizations or even club soccer leagues. The insurance is negligible and the price to join AYSO is very economical.

"Plus, no real special skills sets are required like those other sports," Franco added. "If a child can walk or run, he or she can play."

And while the average American sports fan has not embraced soccer as its national pastime, Franco says that the activity is exploding here in the valley.

"The large Latin-American population is a big part of that," he said. "That, and it's such a family-friendly game.

Region 678 is also fortunate to play in just a few venues, compared to some regions which have to compete at multiple fields.

While not having a sports complex at its disposal - yet - 678 teams generally play in just three locations; Placerita Junior High School (Next to Hart High), Peachland Elementary and Old Orchard Park (both in Newhall).

According to Franco, the organization has its eye on the old Smyser Mule Farm at Cosgrove and I-5 as a possible multi-field sports center, but that's an optimistic hope at this point.

Registration for the league is ongoing with practices beginning the first week in August and regular season games from September through December.

Franco, involved in AYSO since he was a child in the San Fernando Valley, has three boys who participate in 678. He has been a coach as well as a board member. He serves with Regional Commissioner Quin Quinteros, and Assistant Regional Commissioners Roger Almond, Chuck Burkholder, George Stevens and Al Lopez, among others.

"We run this like a first-class operation," Franco said. "We are very proud of our coaches and administration, but we are always looking for new blood. We're of the philosophy that every child plays and has fun. That's the attraction of AYSO.

There is also a special program to help lower income families pay the cost of joining the organization through individual and family scholarships.

In addition, it has reached out to many families personally over the years.

"They have supported my family as my youngest, who is 10, has battled Leukemia and joined us for the Light the Night Walk at Bridgeport," Franco said. "We had over 300 people walk for Team Mateo.

"Our region has also donated to a local family whose house burned down on Christmas several years ago, and we donated over $2K to the Miranda family, whose son Bryan was a U16 player and was shot in an act of random violence last December."

For more information on AYSO Region 678, visit www.ayso678.org.

To have your league or group highlighted in The Signal, please call 902-5529 (after 3 p.m.) or E-mail information to geichelberger@the-signal.com.

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