Kailua-Waimanalo Has Two AYSO Teams In National Tourney

The Kailua-Waimanalo chapter of the American Youth Soccer Organization has a long history within the national organization, having fielded teams and promoted the sport for boys and girls since 1976.

Even so, entry into AYSO’s annual national tournament each July is not guaranteed for any chapter anywhere. Learning recently that Kailua-

Waimanalo (KW) won bids to send a girls 16-and-under team as well as a boys 12-and-under team to this year’s competition was celebrated in the community. To earn a bid, a team must win the luck of the draw – from pulling names out of a hat – and only 24 teams are picked in each age group. KW commissioner Roy Takekawa submitted bids for all age groups, according to long-time coach Alan Heu.

Takekawa and Heu will coach the girls 16U team. “You are extremely fortunate when you can win a bid and be one of the lucky 24,” said Heu, who also has been the Kalaheo girls head coach since 2000. “It can be quite an experience for the kids.”

Heu co-chaired the AYSO National Games in 2008 when they were held in Hawaii. A total of 224 teams from across the nation traveled to Oahu to take part. The 2014 games will be July 2-6 in Torrance, Calif., and it will commemorate AYSO’s 50th anniversary.

Heu’s team of 15 student-athletes from the community will fly out June 29. (The boys team will have 12 players.)

Although soccer is the focal point, the games also are a great social opportunity for the players, in Heu’s view. Among the highlights is a “Soccer Fest,” which is held on the first day. “The Soccer Fest is unique to the tournament,” he said. “The kids from all of the (age) divisions are put into groups so they can play with members of other teams who are going to be competing in the tournament. It’s an opportunity for kids to learn about players from other parts of the country. A lot of them end up becoming friends, and the kids really enjoy that.”

On the competitive side, teams also get to test themselves against teams from different regions. “Hopefully, they love the game, but they also get to compete with the other teams and see how they do. Some of the teams that go play together in a league, while others are put together for the tournament.”

Heu and the girls 16-and-under team already have begun raising funds for the trip, including a recent benefit at Round Table Pizza.

Heu’s association with AYSO dates back to 1981 when his children began playing soccer. “Now, my grandchildren are beginning to play,” he said.