La Mesa AYSO (American Youth Soccer Organization) hosted the 20th anniversary Mt. Helix Classic Labor Day Tournament and dedicated it to the memory of Abigail 'Abby' Luker, a 5 year old that died in a tragic drowning accident over the summer. Abby followed an example set by her older brother and sister and began playing soccer with La Mesa AYSO in Fall 2012. Abby’s mother, Misha, indicated that the family is deeply touched by the willingness of the league to dedicate this year’s tournament to Abby.
Tournament Director and Assistant Regional Commissioner Steve Cashman said; “Abby was known as the little ‘spitfire’ in her family and this year’s sportsmanship coins were handed out during the event as the spitfire award. The Luker family received a commemorative plaque, authentic referee coins, T-shirts and sweatshirts this year as a token of our appreciation and care. Donations can be made to the South Hadley Fire and Rescue Department in memory of ‘Abby Luker’ (www.southhadley.org).”
The tournament took place over the Labor Day weekend and saw teams from across East County compete for medals and trophies. The teams were both boys and girls and ranged in age from 8 to 13. While teams played fiercely to try to reach the finals, the event is widely viewed as an excellent opportunity for players to gain competitive experience in advance of the start of the Fall season.
La Mesa continues to be a dominant force in local recreational soccer, sweeping nearly all brackets with championship wins. The list of winners by team name or coach is: GU9 Coach Saffer, GU10 Coach Fields, BU10 Fuego, GU12 Panthers, BU12 Green Flash, and BU14 Coach Coppo. Lakeside AYSO won the GU14 bracket with La Mesa’s GU14 Coach Janjigan taking a finalist medal.
During the tournament, La Mesa AYSO trained over 25 new youth referee volunteers through a special mentorship program. Experienced referees used wifi communications with the youth trainees to help them learn in real time how to monitor the flow of the game and make correct calls on the field. Commissioner Craig Angarola and Tournament Director Cashman said; “The new youth referees and current upper division AYSO players being knowledgeable in the laws of the game are giving back to the core program as well as earning valuable service award hours and certificates of appreciation this weekend. They were a tremendous help in the success of our tournament.” AYSO Area 11V Director Mel Mann indicated that this was some of the most exciting growth in the youth referee program he had ever seen.
AYSO was founded in 1964 and provides a soccer experience which is both fun and competitive to hundreds of thousands of children across the United States.
Postcript: In the interest of full disclosure, the author notes that he has previously coached Abby Luker’s brother and is a friend of the Luker family.