The AYSO VIP Program was officially launched in 1991 for players with physical and/or mental disabilities. At that time and for some years following its inception, participation in the program was limited to ambulatory children through the age of 18. Several years later the ambulatory restriction was removed and the age limit extended to the length of time the player remained in school, which varied from state to state.
In 1999, recognizing a VIP player's need for ongoing fitness and leisure activities into adulthood, the AYSO National Board of Directors removed the upper age limit for VIP players entirely. The minimum age corresponds to AYSO's age eligibility – currently 4 years of age by July 31 prior to the start of the playing season or, in some Regions with permission of the Section Director, by the date of the Region's first organized activity – camp, practice or game.close section
Buddies are non-disabled persons who assist VIP players on the field. Buddies who assist VIP players on the field have a life-changing experience. For the first time, perhaps, they are interacting with a player with disabilities. They witness the effort and determination as many players struggle with physical limitations but never give up. They learn to see and appreciate them as people, and form friendships with them. They will most likely never view people with disabilities in the same way again. What an education…and it’s free!
It is essential to have a number of buddies on hand for beginning VIP players who will need them. The best buddies are peers of the players—not parents. Some nervous parents will find it hard to “let go.” This is why it is essential for buddies to introduce themselves at the pre-season parent meeting and to let parents know that their preferred role is a supportive – not active – one.
The best buddies are peers of the players: older elementary, middle school, high school, and even college students. As there will likely be a wider age range when just getting started—unless there are enough players to divide into age groups—recruit an age range of buddies to facilitate appropriate pairing. There are several reasons why peers make good buddies:
- The players may respond better to peers.
- Peer buddies begin to form friendships with the players.
- Peer buddies learn and grow from performing a positive, affirming service.
Buddies, as with all volunteers in AYSO, must be registered before they participate with the VIP players at practices or games. Each year, volunteers must complete the Volunteer Application Form, register with and be accepted by the Region where they plan to participate. Buddies under the age of 18 years old must register using the AYSO Youth Volunteer Application.
Be sure to take your signed application
to the local registration day.Training
Training and certification is required by AYSO for all volunteers for their own protection and for the protection of the players. VIP buddies have two choices – they can attend a one-hour special VIP Buddy Training & Certification workshop, or if possible, attend the 2.5 hour VIP Volunteer Training. Contact your local Region to find out what training is taking place and when and where.close section
During early 2008, the Section VIP Award was established to honor an individual who has enriched their Section by their participation in the Very Important Player program and to subsequently submit them as a nominee for the National VIP Enrichment Award.
The purpose of the Section award is to recognize annually one volunteer member of the Section who has given unselfishly to help accomplish the VIP program vision and mission – maximizing opportunities for VIP player participation and providing a quality soccer experience for those individuals whose physical or mental disabilities make it difficult for them to successfully participate on mainstream soccer teams.
A significant number of volunteers in AYSO have recognized the need for VIP and have embraced the program as a vehicle to provide a soccer experience for families who realize their impossible dream of seeing their loved ones enjoying a team and social experience – an experience that enriches all of their lives. Recognizing one of these volunteers at each Section Conference will recognize in some small way the commitment of all of them.
Each of the Section VIP Award winners will be entered into nomination for the Annual VIP Enrichment Award, to be presented at the National Annual General Meeting in May.Past Enrichment Award Winners2013 - Steve Flores, Section 11
2012 - Laurie Florow, Section 11
In the fall of 1999 Steve coached his daughter's U-10 team. He enjoyed the experience so much he asked the Region's Coach Administrator if AYSO had a program for his son Eric who is autistic. He explained AYSO had a program called VIP but he had to research it. By the next season a team was formed and Steve was put in charge of the program.
Since then program has grown from 12 players to over 60. Steve is still amazed how one simple question led to what has become one of the joys of his life. Most enjoyable about the VIP experience is when a new family joins the program. "There is that moment where the new player scores their first goal. The player's parents are almost always overcome with emotion at their child's accomplishment. To see the expressions on their faces is priceless."
Steve says that he has blessed to meet many wonderful people along the way. He has the deepest admiration for the coaches, buddies and the many volunteers who have given their time and efforts to make the program a success. When parents share with him that their child wore his uniform the rest of the weekend after a Saturday game, it warms his heart knowing that child is having a great time enjoying a sport they've come to love.close section
2011 - Eileen Turcotté, Section 1
Laurie has been a long-time supporter of AYSO's VIP Program. She has been the Section 11 VIP Administrator since 2001 and is currently serving a two-year term on the newly formed National VIP Task Force.
Laurie began her VIP involvement in Kentucky when the then National VIP Manager invited 10 volunteers from across the United States to a weekend of training to learn the ins and outs of the VIP Program. Laurie continues to utilize this knowledge by assisting her Areas and Regions in developing their VIP Programs. She meets bi-annually with her Area VIP Coordinators to assist in the efforts to serve the Section 11 VIP participants. Laurie also teaches VIP training and instructor courses to volunteers across Sections 1, 10 and 11.
Each October, VIP players from AYSO Regions, TOPS Soccer and Special Olympics gather to play in the annual Section 11 VIP Tournament. Laurie's extraordinary fundraising efforts and management coordination help ensure that each player has an exceptional experience at the VIP Tournament, including a hot lunch for them, their parents and siblings, and a tournament T-shirt, coin and pin. The tournament features a carnival-like atmosphere with a fun-filled day of soccer in a stress-free and enjoyable environment.
Laurie is the embodiment of a selfless, giving AYSO volunteer who enriches countless lives.close section
2010 - Peter van der Heijden, Section 3
Congratulations to all of the 2011 Spirit Award and VIP Enrichment Award winners. Eileen Turcotte from Area 1D, is the recipient of the VIP Enrichment Award.
During the late 1990s, Eileen and her daughter, Trisha, started a VIP program in Region 92 in El Segundo, Calif. Unfortunately, the program disbanded after two years.
In 2006, Eileen decided to volunteer for the existing VIP Program at the Area level for Area 1D. She showed an amazing amount of dedication, taking on every job possible. In 2008, she took over the leadership position of Area VIP Director and has served admirably.
Each year, Area 1D holds their Annual VIP Friendship Festival. Under Eileen's leadership, this year's Festival was the most successful to date. Participants travel from other Sections to enjoy the day that includes not only soccer games, but also a complete Festival with food and drinks, characters, golf and more.close section
2009 - Jim (JR) Rosenberg, Section 11
At the 2000 NAGM, RCs attended a session about the VIP program. The RC of Region 3/T/220 from Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., returned home and suggested they needed to start VIP program. As assistant RC, Peter decided to give VIP a try. In 2001, he took the VIP Coach and Referee course from the only VIP instructor in Section 3 at that time. There was one VIP team in a neighboring town, so Peter attended a practice to see what it was all about. What he learned most from that experience was how important a group of buddies is to the VIP program! In 2001, Region 220 started its VIP program. Slowly, over the next nine years, neighboring Regions started their own VIP programs after attending Region 220's for a season. Peter became a VIP instructor in 2005 and began to teach VIP Volunteer Training to several Section 3 volunteers. Currently, nine of the 18 Regions in 3T offer the VIP program! He also served as Regional Commissioner and Section Director, but continues to coach the Region's VIP team, with three other coaches and of course, a bunch of buddies! VIP has remained his AYSO passion!close section
2008 - Steve Poretzky, Section 10
JR Rosenberg has dedicated fifteen years to AYSO as a coach, referee, instructor and administrator in a variety of positions and feels privileged to be the Area 11L Director in Orange County, Calif., with the most registered players in an Area. JR is also serving as a key member of the AYSO Extended Play Task Force. A Southern California native educated at UCLA, Jim's "roots" have remained in the Golden State. His background in the national and international telecommunications industry is vast and he has been a City Commissioner in Lake Forest for ten years.
JR's breadth of experiences in AYSO generated a true "love" for contributing to the betterment of our youth, including a "passion" for our VIP Program and the accompanying benefits it provides for these VERY special players. Says Section 11 Director Mike Fults, "His support and organization of the Section 11 VIP Tournament each year, personally ensuring the funding for the tournament by getting his Regions and Area to match his personal donation, helping put on the VIP Silent Auction at the Section Conference and his passion for this great program set him apart from the other fitting candidates in the Section."close section
When Steve Poretzky was Region 33 boy's commissioner in Los Angeles he worked with several families with special needs children—referring them to VIP programs at distant Regions or doing mainstream team placements. Steve wondered why there were no VIP program in his Region. Seeing the need and with support of many volunteers, Steve worked on establishing a program—the new division was launched with 39 players! Steve has had one long string of positive experiences as he has served at the Region, Area and Section levels of VIP and hopes it's been the same for the players, buddies, parents and volunteers. Steve says, "I watch the VIP games at my home Rregion every Saturday and I'm regularly reminded, in the most powerful way, of the reasons that I volunteer. The life lessons I've learned from the VIP players and their families couldn't fit into the Grand Canyon. The inspiration I get from their spirit allows me to re-focus on the important things in life. I have truly received much more than I've given."close section