Officials at the state and regional level of AYSO have made some changes to the Douglas AYSO program and say they are “moving forward.”

The Douglas AYSO held its closing ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Airport Park. Tom Simons, the Section Director for this region, was down for the event. He, along with Amanda Malboeuf, Benson’s regional commissioner as well as some volunteers from the Douglas AYSO, handed out trophies, medals and snacks to the local AYSO participants.

At the event, Simons announced volunteers were being sought to serve on the new board of directors which have since been found. Since that announcement, Brandi Samaniego has been appointed the new regional commissioner for Douglas. Joining her on the new board is Melissa Sanchez, regional registrar; Angel Mendez, referee coordinator; Tony Ruiz, child and volunteer protection advocate/safety director; Jose Quijada, regional auditor; Luis Pedroza, regional treasurer; Erik Quijada, regional coach administrator and Deanna Quijada, fundraiser and events coordinator. Other board members are: Jesus Vasquez, Erica Corona, Maria Valencia, Alex Romero and Hugo Tovar.

Simons said Douglas is in an AYSO Region known as 809.

“AYSO, the organization, has been around for 55-years,” he said. “In that time, at the heyday, there was 1.5 million kids registered to play soccer in the AYSO. The founders of AYSO wanted kids to be able to play in their neighborhood parks. To date that, regions were started, just like this region, Douglas 809. Douglas is the 809th region that became a region in AYSO.”

Simons said there are different regions in an area and Douglas AYSO is in an area known as 12A which reaches from Casa Grande, to Nogales and from California to New Mexico.

“Douglas is a part of 11 different regions,” he said. “There are so many regions in a section and that’s where I come in. My section is Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. I’m kind of in charge of programs and kids in all those states. There are 14 other sectional directors like myself. Above me is the national board.”

Simons stated it’s very important every region has a board, beginning with a regional commissioner who is in charge of that region and typically six supporting main roles.

“What we’re facing here is rebuilding this region and going forward,” Simons said. “We’re looking to establish a new board. In the spirit of moving forward, one of the things AYSO is extremely strong in is the training for coaches, referees and management. All that is available, free of charge, for all registered volunteers. That support is sitting, waiting for you. It’s been there.”

Simons noted that at one point and time, AYSO was the largest volunteer organization in the country.

“There are approximately 15 people in the national office that are paid and they’re the only ones,” he said. “Everyone else, myself, Amanda, we’re all volunteers.”

Simons said there are region tournaments available where soccer teams, not traveling teams that are made up, can go and compete against other AYSO teams in their region.

“That team is specifically designed for the regional champions of each division,” he said. “They will then compete against other regional champion teams. It’s not tournament teams. This might be the only opportunity some of those kids have to participate in a tournament.”

Douglas AYSO did not have any teams participating in the region tournament this year, but next year it will, Simons added.

Simons said AYSO also offers a variety of programs known as Playground, Schoolyard and VIP which is a program specifically designed for kids with special needs. There’s also a club program in AYSO called United, which was recently changed to Challenge.

“Those club teams stick together year-round, they don’t get rebalanced and reshuffled,” he said. “That program has been available for the last two years.”

Simons also announced the current national sponsor, Score, has agreed to donate free uniforms and balls for every player in Region 809.

“They are aware of what’s going on here and want to offer their support in helping the program get back on its feet,” he said.

Simons made a point to thank Chuey Duarte, the now former regional commissioner for Douglas, for his years of service to the kids.

Duarte, who has been a part of Douglas AYSO the past 15 years, was informed in November of AYSO’s desire to make a change at the local level.

His thoughts on being removed as Douglas’ regional commissioner will be in the Jan. 8 Douglas Dispatch.

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