Soccer time is upon us
Peter Weisbrod’s lifelong love affair with soccer practically began
in the cradle.
“If you grew up in Europe or South America, you had a soccer ball
in your crib,” the German-born Weisbrod said.
“Even today, if I am walking on the street, and I see a stone, I
kick it. So does my wife, Ann, who also grew up in Europe.”
Weisbrod will begin his 31st year as a referee for the Laguna
Beach chapter of the American Youth Soccer Organization, better known
“I enjoy the game, I enjoy the kids,” Weisbrod said.
Soccer had yet to take off as a popular team sport in the United
States when Weisbrod immigrated in 1960.
However, a decade later, Laguna Beach fielded a men’s soccer
league on which Weisbrod played along with Italian-born artist Marco
Sassone, a resident of Laguna at that time. The games were played at
El Morro Elementary School.
In 1973, Weisbrod, Al Maier, Marcel Pitz and the late Bob Tucker
founded an AYSO region in Laguna Beach. The local region began with
“The first year, I coached my son Mark’s team and ‘reffed’ a few
games.” Weisbrod said. “The second year, I coached less and ‘reffed’
more. The third year, I began ‘reffing’ exclusively.”
The Weisbrods’ daughter, Anya, also played AYSO. Their son played
soccer at Laguna Beach High School as well as AYSO and was a junior
“Mark is now coaching his son Chad’s soccer team in Arizona, where
they live, and refereeing,” said Ann Weisbrod, whose five brothers
played soccer, although she didn’t. “Girls didn’t then, you know”.
Her husband has definite notions about how the game should be
coached and refereed and what players should be getting out of the
“Soccer is a teaching tool for good sportsmanship, but kids want
to play and have a good time,” Weisbrod said. “Parents and coaches
get much too serious.
“Coaches should coach during practice and then let the kids play
on Saturdays and have their fun.”
He fervently believes that no one should ever “put down” the kids.
“I run up and down the field and tell them how good they are
doing,” Weisbrod said. “And I don’t allow any negative calls.”
AYSO games are held on Saturdays. Ideally, there are three
referees for each game, one in the middle of the field and two on the
“There are never enough refs,” said Weisbrod, “I don’t know how
many games I have worked alone.”
AYSO referees go to classes to learn the rules of the game.
“Then it is just practice, practice, practice,” Weisbrod said.
Recreation Department sports supervisor Ron Lutz was a sophomore
at Laguna Beach High School in 1960-61, when Weisbrod came to the
“There was no soccer here in Laguna at any level,” Lutz said.
“There wasn’t even any organized girls’ sports -- which I thought was
By 1970, when Weisbrod was playing soccer with Sassone, Lutz was
employed by the city and soccer was on the verge of a ground swell.
“We saw it coming,” Lutz said. “So we started a city program, not
knowing that AYSO would come in and do such a great job.”
Laguna has an AYSO chapter and Club Soccer team. Club soccer is an
inter-city program and AYSO is intra-city, Lutz said. Both programs
are independent of the city.
“What the city provides are free facilities,” said Lutz, who
serves as facilities coordinator.
Soccer is played at Lang Park, Mouton Meadows and on the baseball
field at Alta Laguna Park. The Laguna Beach Unified School District
also makes fields available at Top of the World and El Morro
elementary schools and Thurston Middle School.
“I begged for a soccer field when the city was building Alta
Laguna Park,” Lutz said. “I told them we would desperately need it in
However, neighbors wanted to keep the park as compact as possible,
fearing the effect of a “super sports complex.” Given a choice
between a baseball diamond and a soccer field, the city opted for the
“Now we are playing soccer in the middle of the baseball field,”
This year, more than 850 Laguna Beach kids will be playing in AYSO
in the fall season, which begins Sept. 6 and runs through the middle
of December. More than 22,000 children will play soccer this season
in South Orange County, said Richard Leavitt, commissioner of the
Laguna Beach region.
“We are the largest youth sports activity in Laguna Beach,”
Registration is still open for all age groups except Under-14 and
Under-16. Age brackets begin at Under-6 and go up in two-year
increments. Team placement is determined by the player’s age as of
Applications are available at Sports World, now at 849 Laguna
Canyon Frontage Road, in the Festival Center next to the Sawdust
Laguna AYSO is administered by a seven-member board: Leavitt,
Assistant Commissioner Richard Graham, Under 16 Girls coach and
referee trainer; Hillary Hillmann, safety coordinator and child
protective advocate; Marnie Haymond, registrar; Scott Bakkum, head
coach administrator; and Dave Arnold, field administrator.
The board, the more than 100 coaches and the referees are all
“We have about 20 or 25 refs and some in training. It isn’t
enough,” Leavitt said, echoing veteran ref Weisbrod.
Volunteers would be welcomed. For more information about AYSO or
volunteering, contact email@example.com or call (949)
497-4886 and leave a message.
* OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline
Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box
248, Laguna Beach, 92652, hand-deliver to 384 Forest Ave., Suite 22;
call 494-4321 or fax 494-8979.
All the latest on Orange County from Orange County.
Get our free TimesOC newsletter, coming in August.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Daily Pilot.