By Halie LeSavage

RuskinSoccerFOX LogoThe American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) celebrates its 50th anniversary this year—and Region 1487 of the program in Ruskin is excited to continue its legacy of child-first and child-focused sports in the Tampa Bay Area.

The Ruskin region will commemorate the occasion with the AYSO 50th anniversary logo printed on each uniform issued this season, as well as extra games competing against Region 1408 in Wildwood on Saturday, October 4.

AYSO is one of three non-profit leagues included in Ruskin Area Youth Sports (RAYS), sponsored by the First Baptist Church in Ruskin. For 10 years, players from Apollo Beach, Gibsonton, Balm, Ruskin, Sun City Center, Riverview and Wimauma have been welcomed for an experience that teaches children the rules of the game and encourages skills for success both on and off the soccer field.

“Children who have grown up in the AYSO recreational program are prepared for a competitive level of play,” said Vicki Rumsey, the RAYS League Director.  Unlike other recreational soccer leagues, RAYS “seeks to instill character values and skills in sports through competition.”

Rumsey moved from Lenoir City, Tenn. to Ruskin with her husband and 9-year-old daughter in 2001. She was surprised by the lack of “community activities that had the values we wished to instill in our daughter” and immediately took action.

“After doing a demographic study of the area, my husband and I contacted the American Youth Soccer Organization in California,” Rumsey said. “We recruited families who had the same interest to help us organize (a league) and AYSO provided instructors from the Miami area. In 2004, AYSO Region 1487 became a pilot region with 45 soccer players.”

Since then, the program has flourished due to its attention to character and skill development in players. Fostering the growth of “happy, healthy kids” is the center of AYSO’s community-driven philosophy. This mission to deliver quality sports programs in a family-friendly environment is achieved through following six key guidelines: everyone plays, balanced teams, open registration, positive coaching, good sportsmanship and player development.

Participation in AYSO is not limited to children; parents are encouraged to volunteer as coaches, assistant coaches, referees and concession workers at games.

Although there are opportunities for the entire family to be involved, enriching the children’s lives is the priority of the program. “Everybody likes to win,” Rumsey said, “but developing successful players and people is fundamental in AYSO.”

The American Youth Soccer Organization has offered a fun and fair alternative to other forms of recreational sports for the past fifty years. This devotion to “what’s good for the kids” will continue in a new Parrish region this year due to the success of the program in Ruskin.

Registration for the AYSO 2014 Fall Season in Ruskin is now open. Registration costs $100 per player, but family discounts are available. Children ages 4-and-a-half thru 19 are eligible for registration, no former experience required.

All practices and most games are held on property of First Baptist Church in Ruskin located at 820 College Ave. W. For more information on RAYS programs and registration, visit or call 645-6441 ext 233.

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