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AYSO National Games 2006

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CHICAGO - Think there's not enough competition in AYSO - think again! East Central Iowa recently sent a U16 boys team to the AYSO National Games in Chicago. 192 teams, from as far away as Trinidad & Tobago, played in 8 separate divisions, from U12 through U19. The competition was fierce, and while our team didn't advance to the medal round we are pleased to have finished 3rd out of 24 teams for the sportsmanship award - the highest award at the games. See you in Hawaii in 2008!

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A U12 girls team waits for the opening ceremonies to start.
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Can't find a referee on Saturday morning? They're all at the National Games!
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Scenes from the opening Ceremonies.
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Tennessee checks in.
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Hawaii is well represented.
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U16 girls in action.
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The U16 boys team from East Central Iowa.
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U16 boys in action. (Rockwell Collins engineers will like the backdrop.)

Report from the Coach

Tournament was in Vernon Hills & Libertyville, Illinois, about 40 minutes north of downtown Chicago. Tournament was for U12, U14, U16, and U19 teams, both boys and girls. Each division was composed of four groups of six teams, totalling 24 teams per division, or 192 teams overall. One team from Trinidad & Tobago was in the U19 boys division, otherwise all teams were from the US with CA, HI, and FL making impressive showings. Of the 24 teams in our U16B division, 9 were from CA and 3 from HI.

We were selected by lottery, as were all teams, back in January, and had to make a deposit of $400 to hold our spot. This was followed by an impressive amount of paperwork, etc., before we showed up. But the games did a great job of coordinating all the info and making it clear what was needed when, etc.

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Player check in. All players had to be present in full uniform, with alternate uniform in hand. All uniforms were checked to make sure they adhered to AYSO standards - AYSO logo in the right place, no player or sponsor names, etc. Players equipment was also checked, they verified all player registration forms, and we got our player cards for all players.
(These were checked religiously before each game.) Every player got a t-shirt and bag of goodies, we got coaches shirts (of course they ran out of my size before I got there, but that was the only glitch), and assorted other trinkets.

Opening ceremonies. All 192 teams formed up next to a high school football field. Apparently there was an accident on the main access road, because we stood there for 1.5 hours waiting for things to get started. In any case, we got to see 100+ actual AYSO referee's present in one spot!
Players milled around trading pins and goofing off until things got rolling, then we entered the stadium one team at a time and marched around the track and formed up on the field. We were the only team from Iowa there. Seeing all 192 teams - with more players than played in the world cup - present was very nice. Once we all got lined up the opening ceremony itself was a little disappointing. Taking only about 15 minutes for 4 - 5 speakers to say welcome to Chicago. That was the only low point for the week though.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Soccerfest Games. Each division reported to their fields at the assigned times. When we arrived they had two sets of numbers, 1 - 12, spray painted on an area the size of a soccer field. They told us to claim a number and form up with our team. The volunteers then came by to verify player registration cards, equipment, etc., and then wrote a number on each kids hand indicating their region, and which team they would play on for the day. So our, 14 kids were split into 12 teams. The coaches then moved to the other side of the field, and the players them moved to join up with their team for the day. At this point, all teams were completely random from two of the four groups of six teams. We spent a while agreeing on a formation, lineup, substition plan, etc., and all of the players got unique soccerfest jerseys for the day. They got to keep them after the day was over. We then played two 40 minute games, with an hour break in between.
All seemed to go well for our guys, with several of them scoring goals for their teams.

Coaches Meeting. At the completion of the opening ceremonies all coaches had a big meeting to answer questions, etc. We also got a very needed lecture on hydration, heat stroke, etc., as temperatures were in the mid-90's for many of the games. No surprises here.

Player Celebration. That evening all players got a free pass for rides at a local town carnival. Most of ours decided not to go, but it was a fun time for those who did.

At the end of this day we received 6 team points for participating in soccerfest, as did all teams who showed up this day.

Thursday, 13 July 2006

Let the games begin. Our first two games were both against teams from California, and I expected them to be our toughest two. I was right.
Essentially, we got blown out early in both games. Lost the first game 8 - 0 to Rowland Heights, CA, and the second 4 - 1 to La Mirada, CA. We scored on a cross, when their keeper bobbled the ball and we were their to finish the play. (Oh, yeah, that was my kid!) FYI, the team from Rowland Heights advanced to the quarter final round. (The top two finishers from each group of six advanced to the quarter finals, just like in the world cup.)

In both games the other teams clearly could have scored twice as many points. Size wise we matched up okay, though our team was primarily U15 players and most other teams seemed to average older players. In terms of athleticism we were comparable, but they were more highly skilled players, and had a very obvious tactical advantage. Our team had only one scrimmage game as a team before showing up, and these teams had been playing together for many months, if not years. The first team kept it somewhat reasonable in that their players seemed to lose all ability to shoot the ball straight in the second half, with most of their shots (deliberately) going wide.
The second team kept it close by not taking a shot on goal in the second half.

FYI, I chatted with one referee from CA who indicated that they have a region that's about 12 square miles in area, and has 700 kids, but within a half an hour they have 6 - 8 other regions they play against at the higher levels. In comparison, I told him we're about 400 - 500 square miles in area, have 1100 kids in the region, and have only 3 other regions in the state (as far as I know).

So at the end of the first day, we had received 1 team point for scoring a single goal. Other teams got 6 points for each win, 4 points for a tie, 1 point for each goal scored (up to 3) and 1 point for a shut out. We were in 5th out of 6 at the end of the day as one other team was shut out both games. However, we were tied for 1st, out of 24 teams, in sportsmanship with perfect scores for both games! That was a point that was emphasized explicitly as each team is graded for up to 5 points in 6 different areas, players, coaches, and spectators. To make it clear who's spectators were misbehaving they had each team (coaches, players, and spectators) claim a different side of field. Unlike most games at Tuma where the players are on one side with the coaches and all spectators are on the other side.

Friday, 14 July 2006

Our first game was against a team from Michigan that was also 0 - 2. We knew this was our best chance. Very hard fought game. 0 - 0 at half time.
They took a 1 - 0 lead, we tied it up, and everybody kept scrapping for the last 15 minutes trying to score. But the end was a 1 - 1 tie.

Our second game was against a team from Utah. Also a great game. 0 - 0 at half. They took a 1 - 0 lead about 5 minutes into the second half, but everything stayed very tight until they scored a second with about 3 minutes to go in the game. This one ended in a 0 - 2 loss, but the Utah team advanced to the quarter finals. So we were very pleased with how our kids held up. The referee at the end of this game complimented us all as he felt this was the best game of the tournament that he'd seen in terms of how well everyone played during an evenly matched game.

By the end of this day we had dropped to 3rd, out of 24, in terms of sportsmanship, and were still in 5th out of 6 in terms of team points. We had been mathematically eliminated from advancing to the quarter finals, with other teams having 40, 37, 30, 20, and 11 points compared to our 12.
(A score of 40 at this point means you've won all four of your games by at least 3 goals and no one's scored on you yet.)

Saturday, 15 July 2006

Our final game against the 4th place team. If we shut them out by 2 - 0 we would take over 4th place. Also, we were told they had revised the sportsmanship points and we were back in 1st place. So our clear objective for the game was, love everybody to death, and let everything else fall where it may. As luck would have it we got blown out again, 6 - 0, with the other team scoring no goals in the second half. This was a very hot game in the heat of the day and we just got out played across the board.

At the end of this we were done, so the kids split up and headed their merry ways. We gave them all their player cards for a souvenir. That afternoon was a Chicago Fire game, vs FC Dallas, at their new soccer-only stadium, so we caught that game before heading back to Iowa.


Quarter Finals - Both teams that advanced from our group of six teams lost their first games and fell out of contention for the overall championship.
This tells us how high the level of competition is. The vast majority of all teams advancing to the medal rounds are from CA, FL, or HI.

Officiating - Excellent! The best I've ever seen, both in terms of numbers and quality. I only saw one call in 7 games that I disagreed with, and even then I understand why it got called the way it did. Outstanding job in getting the officials there, keeping them synchronized as a crew, etc.
Not only did they check the line up cards before the game, the ARs came over at each substition break to update them.

Regional Pins - Most of the other regions seemed to have their own pins, which they traded with other players throughout the games. I picked up a bunch of Cedar Rapids pins from the chamber of commerce, (the price was right), but they weren't nearly as nice as others. I'll bring these to the next board meeting to show you what I mean.

AYSO Bingo - At one game some people stopped by to show parents and coaches an incentive. If you complete a bingo card, filling in boxes by citing specific examples of the right kind of behavior on and off the field, you can trade it for goodies. Again, I'll bring examples to the next board meeting.

Aside from getting schooled by better teams it was a great time. The next national games is in 2008, in Hawaii. The U19 divisions, both boys and girls, did not fill up this year, and that tells me it will likely be easy to get a team from Iowa accepted in the next national games. That gives us two years to figure out if we have enough coaches / kids who are interested and can afford the trip.

Alan Tribble

Last changed: Jul 25 2006 at 5:32 PM