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Soccer time is upon us

OUR LAGUNA

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

as AYSO.

“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

16 teams.

“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

referee.

“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

game.

“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

sidelines.

“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

United States.

“There was no soccer here in Laguna at any level,” Lutz said.

“There wasn’t even any organized girls’ sports -- which I thought was

ridiculous.”

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

10 years.”

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

diamond.

“Now we are playing soccer in the middle of the baseball field,”

Lutz said.

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,”

Leavitt said.

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

July 31.

Applications are available at Sports World, now at 849 Laguna

Canyon Frontage Road, in the Festival Center next to the Sawdust

Festival.

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

volunteers.

“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 rleavitt@coldwellbanker.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.


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