I am glad that Salvador Morote is successfully coaching his daughter's soccer team in a competitive league, but his criticisms of the AYSO lakefront league are unfair and, in my experience, inaccurate [January 8].
AYSO is not a highly competitive soccer league--that is its whole point. The principles of AYSO are open registration, balanced teams, and everyone plays. No matter how inexperienced or ineffective a soccer player is, she or he will play the majority of the game--usually at least three out of the four quarters. In this way players of all levels have a chance to participate in a wonderful team sport, feel that they are contributing to their team, have a fun time, get a lot of rigorous physical exercise, and develop their soccer skills. As a parent of four children who have participated in the AYSO lakefront league for over ten years, I am very grateful for these aspects of the program. My children all enjoy soccer and look forward to their games and practices, but soccer is not the center of their lives, and they are not looking to professional soccer careers. They have developed some pretty good skills though, and my oldest is now an active part of his high school's soccer teams (public school, by the way).
Morote's account of discriminatory conduct at an AYSO game is completely unrepresentative, and I have never heard this accusation before. As an AYSO parent and referee I am usually at the lakefront for several hours every game day, and I have never heard any kind of racial remark. When did this incident occur? Was it reported to the AYSO board? In my experience the lakefront board is extremely concerned about any incident of inappropriate conduct by players, parents, coaches, or referees, and actively follows up and addresses the problem. This type of remark would be the worst kind of misconduct and would be very aggressively dealt with.
One of the remarkable things about AYSO is that it is an entirely volunteer organization. Every Saturday during the soccer season, the lakefront league alone (there are many other AYSO leagues in Chicago) gives about 1,500 children a quality experience playing reasonably competent soccer in reasonably well-organized games in an atmosphere where no one gets too upset if they lose--and not a single person gets paid a penny to organize this. I am constantly amazed at the amount of time that a lot of devoted people put into this program solely because they love the game of soccer and want to give all children the chance to play it. For these efforts to be distorted in the way Morote did is grotesque.
The AYSO lakefront program forms teams in the fall, and the same teams play in the fall and spring. Sign-up for the fall season usually takes place in May, and the date and time of the sign-up are widely publicized. Information about the sign-up, and all aspects of the program, can also be found by calling 773-929-KICK (5425). The cost is low--about $70 for the entire season if I recall correctly--and scholarships are available for those in need. If you want your children to have fun, get some exercise, learn some skills (soccer, teamwork, and good citizenship), sign up. If you want a competitive program where your child may be exposed to more skilled soccer but you spend countless hours ferrying your children to practices and remote games and dealing with your child's distress at sitting on the bench or losing a game, sign up with Morote's program.
John L. Stainthorp
Ben Joravsky replies:
According to Morote, the incident described in my article occurred at an AYSO game on the field at Lawrence and Marine Drive some four or five years ago. Morote says he reported the matter to AYSO's north-lakefront commissioner, who dismissed it as an isolated incident.