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New AYSO program for disabled

Second group joins Region 46 in services

Posted: April 8, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 8, 2013 2:00 a.m.

George Bozic and his son Jovan, left, give a high-five to Dancarlo Filianothe.

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A local chapter of the American Soccer Youth Organization will become the second in Santa Clarita Valley to offer programming for special needs athletes this fall.

“Many times in the past I got the question, ‘Do you have programs for these kids?’” said Louis Chevalier, the commissioner for AYSO Region 678. “It was hard for me to repeatedly say ‘no’ and try to refer them to another program.”

So AYSO Region 678, which draws participants from Newhall, Stevenson Ranch and Valencia, will offer the AYSO Very Important Players program beginning this fall, Chevalier said.

Only recently did Chevalier become the region’s commissioner, and he said Thursday that starting a VIP program was one of his top priorities.

Children as young as 4 years old are eligible to register in the program, Chevalier said. The program will also be open to players using walkers, wheelchairs or other devices that assist mobility.

Registration for the region’s VIP program began April 1 and will continue until games start in the fall. Chevalier said there will be no registration fee to enroll in the program, and there is no limit to how many athletes can register.

“I really want this to be about (Region) 678 giving back to the community,” he said.

AYSO first launched the VIP program in 1991 to cater to athletes with physical or mental disabilities.

Region 678’s VIP program will be the second offered in the Santa Clarita Valley. For the better part of a decade, special needs soccer players have been served by AYSO Region 46 in Saugus, according to Carol Rodrigues, a co-director of that region’s VIP program.

Rodrigues said Friday that athletes from all over the Santa Clarita Valley have come out to participate in the region’s program over the years.

Region 46 fields four teams of special needs athletes, Rodrigues said, but it is looking to expand in the future.

She said she has eight years experience working with special needs individuals and saw the VIP program as a way to bring that experience to the field.

“The program takes the philosophy of AYSO and is able to bring it to these children,” Rodrigues said. “Everyone plays, we work on positive coaching and the children’s benefit is that they get to have this great experience with their peers.”

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