1. Chappaqua offers a lot of soccer … there’s a Chappaqua branch of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) which plays locally until fifth grade and then competes against nearby communities, and also the Chappaqua Youth Soccer Club (CYSC), which plays in the Westchester Youth Soccer League (WYSL) and so teams travel farther – when people say ‘travel soccer’ in Chappaqua they generally mean CYSC. (There are teams at Horace Greeley High School, of course, and modified programs at the middle schools, too.) Everyone from super-athletic soccer enthusiasts to those who play soccer as a second sport or in a more relaxed fashion to children and teens with special needs–all these and more can find a way in Chappaqua to kick the black-and-white ball around with some peers while improving their skills and getting some fresh air.
2.… for kids of all ages. CYSC offers teams this year for children born in 2010 and afterwards; AYSO offers soccer to kids as young as pre-K. Both programs go all the way through high school. Copies of birth certificates are required for proof of age. Because AYSO has programs for younger players, many children start out playing for AYSO, Jonathan Taub, longtime commissioner of Chappaqua AYSO, said. Some continue with AYSO, which takes all children. There are no tryouts and no children are cut. Others switch to CYSC, which has annual tryouts in May.
3. Both programs are stand-outs. What’s the difference between AYSO and CYSC? Well, Taub said, “everyone knows all about AYSO.” It’s a national program that offers soccer to a wide range of ages and abilities, and is known for the slogan “Everyone plays.” AYSO unabashedly takes all comers. CYSC offers a more competitive, time-intensive experience; prospective players must try out annually. Lisa McGowan, co-president of CYSC with David Schreiber, said the “very large majority” of youngsters who try out are ultimately offered a spot on a CYSC team. After U9, players are assigned to a team based on ability and skill level, which is different than AYSO’s ‘balanced teams’ model. The AYSO U19 high school co-ed team is, Taub said, the largest program of its kind in the county. CYSC was given WYSL’s Club of the Year award in 2016, and the club was recognized for its commitment to a “player first” philosophy and commended for providing a “fun, safe and challenging environment” with “excellent leadership.” It was the first time WYSL gave out these awards.
4.… and have the support of many local volunteers. According to McGowan, close to 100 volunteers pitch in to make the program work, alongside 15 professional trainers (professional soccer coaches with many years of experience and many certifications). Chappaqua’s AYSO depends on many dozens of vounteers as well. Some volunteers, McGowan, Schrieber and Taub among them, don’t even have offspring currently playing soccer in the programs to which they devote their efforts. “We’re doing it because we love it,” Schreiber said.
5. The players do need to be from Chappaqua/New Castle… CYSC teams are open to kids who reside in New Castle or attend the Chappaqua Schools. Chappaqua AYSO requires that players be residents of the Chappaqua school district, Taub said.
6.… which is a place with a lot of enthusiasm for the sport–the numbers are amazing. More than 700 kids play in AYSO’s program, Taub said, and according to McGowan, well over 400 players fill the ranks of CYSC’s teams. (The only overlap is with the U9 kids who play for CYSC: those players are required to also play for AYSO.) This enthusiasm is fostered by cooperation between the various programs and also the schools. Fields must be shared and schedules worked out. “The relationship in town between CYSC and Chappaqua AYSO is really excellent,” Schreiber said. “We work with them on field availability and many other issues.” While according to Schrieber there’s no formal relationship between the club’s efforts and the soccer program at Horace Greeley, “there are three coaches who also coach at the high school,” he said, stressing that there’s no sharing of information between the programs and totally separate tryouts. AYSO offers high school players both fall and spring seasons. CYSC only has spring seasons for high school players–at school, soccer is a fall sport.
7. Kids can play sometimes, or all year … AYSO offers spring and fall seasons and CYSC offers a 10-month program, except for high school teams. “All of our teams practice in the winter including the high school teams,” McGowan said. Winter practices start shortly after the fall soccer season ends at the high school and are held indoors at Armonk Indoor Sports Center. In the summer, there’s a CYSC camp at the end of August that boasts an 85-percent participation rate. “It’s a five-day camp and each team has three hours of practice during the (camp) day,” Schrieber said. “During that one week, they’re getting in a lot of practice.”
8.… and switch between programs. Many of Chappaqua’s soccer-playing youngsters start with AYSO and segue into CYSC, then to school soccer, while playing AYSO or CYSC in the club season. Some players leave soccer to devote more time to another sport, then come back. “The beauty of AYSO is that if you leave you can come back three years later. We’ll always have a place for every child to play soccer at AYSO,” Taub said. Schreiber and McGowan also said that players who have left CYSC for other athletic opportunities do return.
9. Sportsmanship is highly prized In fact, good sportsmanship is front and center on AYSO’s national website. “We pride ourselves on sportsmanship, focusing on development versus number of wins,” Schreiber said of CYSC. “I one-hundred percent agree,” McGowan said, adding that learning to be part of a team is very important.
10. and so is inclusion. AYSO has offered a VIP team for a few years now which serves kids with special needs. Josh Lurie founded the program several years ago, Taub said. Volunteers including Spencer McGowan and other high school students help children and teens on the team. “We’re happy to have everyone play,” Taub said. In addition, financial assistance is available for those who can not afford to pay team fees.