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Tom Anaya, Soccer Program Volunteer : Volunteer Shortage Angers Soccer Leader

Tom Anaya is mad about soccer. And he wants to make other people mad, too.

He wants children to get as mad about the sport as he is. He wants parents to get mad at the lack of volunteers to teach the kids.

As commissioner of the American Youth Soccer Organization’s Santa Ana region, Anaya presides over 500 players on 38 teams, a dramatic increase from the 120 players in the league just five years ago. He is encouraged by the increase, but his mood is tempered by a shortage of volunteer coaches and referees, which has forced him to disband some teams.

“I’ve had to make some ugly decisions,” he said, the disappointment clear on his face. “I don’t like to be negative, but right now it bothers me that people in this community don’t want to be involved. We should have had 43 teams, but because we couldn’t get volunteers to come on out, we couldn’t do it. We have the kids who want to play.”

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Still, Anaya and other adults who do want to be involved have virtually rebuilt AYSO Region 517 from the fledgling organization it was when his wife, Angela, signed up their two sons in 1985 to the growing league it is today.

When Angela Anaya signed up sons Tommy, now 13, and Danny, now 10, she told the coach that if he asked her husband, he wouldn’t refuse to help.

The coach asked, and Anaya signed on as an assistant coach. The next year, he was placed in charge of all coaches in the Santa Ana organization, but it was a discouraging year because there were nine fewer teams, and “it looked like it was going to fall apart.”

But Anaya, who was named commissioner in 1987, and others kept the league together.

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Nearly every day, Anaya and his fellow coaches--including his wife, who runs a team that includes their 9-year-old daughter, Sarah--can be found on the field at McFadden Intermediate School. Many of the teams play and practice at the same time, allowing them to mingle and get to know each other, Anaya said.

“We start (the players) at 5 years of age,” he said. “This is one sport that size and weight does not matter. In fact, a lot of times you see a lot of small kids excel.”

The league tries to hand out trophies for all its players. A $35 fee entitles a player to a uniform, a trophy and ribbons, as well as events held during the year to honor the teams and volunteers.

“It’s really been great for kids,” Anaya said. “I’ve seen kids from underprivileged homes get their trophies and their uniform, and sometimes they sleep in their uniforms.”

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The teams, Anaya said, give children a sense of belonging, and he cries out for more volunteers to get more children involved.

“I’ve seen a lot of kids change, and it has nothing to with the sport, but the fact that they’re involved with something,” he said. “We always hear something like, ‘Let’s do something positive for the kids.’ Well, this is something and we’re not getting help.

“We should have over 1,000 kids, but my concern is if I had 1,000 kids I wouldn’t know what to do with them because of the lack of volunteers.”


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