Special Kick Or Treat Tournament

LA MESA -- For many children with special needs, organized youth sports is only something to watch their brothers and sisters play.  To help offer opportunities for these players, AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) formed the VIP soccer program.  La Mesa AYSO has two VIP teams, olders and youngers, which are carefully and cheerfully coached by longtime volunteer Gary Hartnett.   On a recent fall afternoon, both teams participated in the 4th annual Kick or Treat Soccer Tournament hosted by El Cajon AYSO at Kennedy Park.  Special needs soccer players from across East County joined together for a morning of spirited soccer games, followed by a picnic and Fall Festival.

All players receive an award and many come to the tournament dressed in their Halloween costumes.  Parents, coaches, players cheer for any goal, regardless of which team scored.  

As with regular youth soccer programs, there are friendly high fives for both teams after the games are finished.

La Mesa AYSO has sent teams and provided financial and volunteer support for the tournament since its inauguration in October 2011.  Commissioner Steve Cashman encourages his board-members to attend and “See the true spirit of youth soccer in action.”  Coach Hartnett stated, “What our players have in common with all soccer players is they love to be part of a team, love the Saturday mornings on the field, and they love it when someone scores a goal. 

They play for fun and each, in their own distinct way, plays for the love of the game.  The best part is seeing the kids wearing their pumpkin-shaped medals over their Halloween costumes or soccer jerseys. They are so happy to be included, proud to be a “Champion”, and they love telling you about their games. They really celebrate the soccer experience without caring about wins and losses.”

Information about the VIP Program and other AYSO soccer opportunities can be found at www.lamesaayso.org

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Tags: AYSO, Gary Hartnett, Jay Steiger, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Soccer, Youth soccer, special needs soccer

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