Ablaze with runners, kickers and cheering parents, the fall season officially kicked off for the West Valley Soccer League on Saturday across 21 fields at 4 locations.
This fall, the league has put together 321 boys and girls teams consisting of 2,800 players ages 5 to 15. The teams will play more than 160 games on fields at Pierce Community College in Woodland Hills, Round Meadow Elementary School and Alice C. Stelle Middle School in Calabasas and Columbus Middle School in Canoga Park.
WVSL, more commonly known by its acronym, is a recreational soccer league that introduces and encourages boys and girls of all athletic abilities to embrace and enjoy soccer. The mission of this non-profit organization, established in 1965, is to continue to share with the community a sport that the world has embraced fondly.
“[WVSL] has been able to create an atmosphere of fun. [WVSL] is truly about the recreational development of young players,” explained VP General Manager Paul Clifton.
Opening day was something the Gofnung family looked forward to as twins Dean and Aiden, 5, took to the field for the first time.
“I’m just excited to see the kids playing with new friends,” said mom Marwa Kilani-Gofnung, about the boys’ first team experience. “It’s not about the individual, but about the team.”
Kilani-Gofnung said she relies heavily on recommendations when it comes to activities and school choices for her children. Based on word of mouth, she was sold on the league’s reputation.
The Alzates family members, on the other hand, are WVSL veterans. They’ve been with the league for 10 years. The family, who “lives and breathes” soccer, has three children who are in the more competitive Real So Cal Club Soccer, one child in the recreational league, and both mom and dad coach.
“Watching the kids have fun and develop [as players]” is what Jody Alzate said was the most rewarding aspect of the family’s involvement with the sport.
“My number one rule is to have fun. The bonus is seeing them improve,” she said.
A staple within the San Fernando Valley for more than 45 years, WVSL does have its challenges. As the world of competitiveness has taken the fun out of the game, the league strives to keep everything in check.
“It’s not about the champion or big trophies,” Clifton said.
His hopes are that parents embrace the sport and set an example for young players today.
Parent volunteer coaches are essential to the existence of teams. Encouraging parental participation, WVSL holds coaching clinics for both the novice and the knowledgeable. In the workshops, parents learn age-appropriate techniques, game rules and player management. Volunteer coaches are required to be licensed by the California Youth Soccer Association (CYSA) and must be risk management certified through the Department of Justice according to the WVSL website.
A popular fixture to WVSL is the Friday Nights Skills Academy at Pierce College. In this clinic open to all current players, boys and girls have a chance to hone their skills and learn proper techniques with obstacle stations placed throughout the open field. Players are divided by age and run each course in an allotted time.
WVSL also offers a two-week camp in the summer.
Some players that have started with the recreational league have gone on to Real So Cal, a competitive soccer club for the serious player. Where WVSL teams play against other teams within the league, club players play against other clubs in Southern California and beyond. Throughout the years, Real So Cal has added to its list of accolades state titles and US National Championships. Real So Cal Soccer Club also offers scholarships to underprivileged youth.
For more information the league, Real So Cal Club Soccer and the upcoming Spring 2013 Season, visit the WVSL website.