AYSO 4v4 Tournament Comes To Grant
Today (Saturday) Grant is hosting a massive 4vs4 AYSO tournament featuring soccer players from throughout the region competing in a unique format that features 20 minute games and wide open fields.
I spoke to April Pickard one of the organizers of this ambitious event and she referred me to Darren Rogers who has a long history of involvement with AYSO. Mr. Rogers has kindly offered to deliver an overview of the AYSO program for the uninitiated.
I’ve volunteered with the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) for 15 years, the last six years in...
...western Michigan. I am a National Referee and a National Coach, and I referee, instruct Coaches, instruct Referees, conduct Coach and Player clinics, organize the seasons, and play in our Adult League whenever I can.
AYSO is the best youth sports organization there is. It is a grassroots organization, run by local Volunteers, who are often parents who want children to be able to play the game in an enjoyable setting. My sons both played AYSO, but are college-age now, but I am committed to AYSO. I moved to Muskegon over five years ago. There was not nearby AYSO, so I found the nearest Regions which are the smallest AYSO entity, and typically cover a town or community.
I hooked up with Regions in Newaygo and, later, Grant. I drive 60+ miles to help in my home Region each Saturday because I love AYSO and because I have made great friends there that also love AYSO. I am involved, too, in the Area Staff (Areas are AYSO’s next larger entity: Area 8A covers west Michigan) and Section Staff (the larger AYSO entity, Section 8 covers all of Michigan), so I travel to places like Tawas City, Coldwater, Wayland, etc., to Coach, Referee, or Instruct – anytime AYSO needs me. AYSO is based on six really cool philosophies:
Everyone Plays (at least half of every game – no sitting on the bench; you learn the game best by playing the game)
Balanced Teams (the game is more fun when teams are of roughly equal strength),
Open Registration (anyone between ages 4 and 19 can play, and we have a great Very Important Player (VIP) program to include those with physical or developmental issues),
Positive Coaching (we instruct and focus on development of the Player as well as the person),
Good Sportsmanship (respect for the game, the opponents, the officials – not gamesmanship), and
Player Development (when you do the things above, players enjoy the game and want to develop their skills).
Again, when AYSO is done right, it’s the best youth sports organization there is. AYSO is at its best in places like west Michigan: small towns where Moms and Dads pitch-in to help children learn the game – in places like Grant, Newaygo, White Cloud, Howard City, Lakeview, Reed City, Greenville, Cedar Springs, Ithaca, and Scottville.
We have wonderful Volunteers. We have all gotten to spend quality time with our own children because of AYSO, and we have gotten to be good examples to all children. It’s great to see so many Players volunteer for AYSO as Referees. They’re learning to contribute and give, and they will continue. Lots of them, in turn, become Coaches, Referees, and Administrators when they grow up and have children of their own.
Each year for the last seven years, we end the fall season with a 4v4 Tournament. I’ve worked at six of them. Small teams play on small fields. The games are fast (two ten-minute halves). The rules are unique: the ball needs to stay below chest level, kick-ins replace throw-ins, and there is no goalkeeping. It is soccer in its purest form, and it’s really fun to watch the Players “get it” – when they understand the tactics and four players begin to move as one unit. And, it’s good-natured. A lot of full-sided (11v11) tournaments get tense: competition makes things stressful.
There are more smiles at this tournament than at any I’ve attended (and I’ve been to a lot of tournaments in places like TN and AL, as well as MI). We must be doing something right. We had 40-something teams until three years ago. Last year, we had over 70 teams and over 130 games. This year, we’re at 92 teams and 166 games. It’s stressful on the Volunteers from Grant to arrange the game schedule, Referee schedule, merchandise, concessions, fields, registration/check-in – but they are a great group of people and love AYSO.
Section 8 Coach Administrator
Area 8A Coach Administrator
Region 1472 Referee Administrator
If you like soccer or just like seeing a whole lot of kids having a whole lot of fun, stop by the fields in Grant on Saturday and take in a bit of this fast-paced, exciting and exhilarating event.