In this 50th Anniversary year, AYSO inducted six new members to the Hall of Fame: John Cooper, Steve Erdos, Bill Finkel, Harry Johnson, Deuk Perrin and Dick Robson.
The AYSO Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have made a significant impact on our organization over the years. This year's inductees were a special group as they were integral during AYSO's formative years.
John Cooper founded AYSO’s quality referee program. He had been a professional player and a FIFA referee in three countries and came to the United States in 1954, and was employed as a tooling engineer for Hughes Aircraft.
History shows that at the explicit invitation of Bill Hughes and Hans Stierle, two of AYSO’s original founders, John was present during the organization meeting in which the five recognized founders established AYSO in 1964. The founders invited John to the meeting because of his expertise in soccer officiating, and he subsequently became the first AYSO youth field official and first Commissioner of Officials.
He traveled and trained and inspired countless other volunteers as referees at each place he visited. In these roles, he was integral to the formation, continuation and expansion of AYSO. As was noted by a member of the 2014 Hall of Fame Commission, the establishment of a quality referee program is crucial for the success of any soccer program, as it was for AYSO.
John was an AYSO volunteer for 40 years which is even more exceptional because he had no children of his own and worked solely for the benefit of thousands, then ultimately millions, of other people’s children.
Steve Erdos is a truly extraordinary volunteer who is officially recognized as one of the five original founders of AYSO. He was born in Romania in 1919, worked in the hotel industry in Southern California, and was a devotee of soccer until his death in 2011 at 92 years old. Steve made the arrangements for the room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where he was employed, where the five founders held their organizational meeting in 1964. He made significant contributions to this meeting and to the formulation of plans of action by which AYSO commenced operations.
AYSO began as an unincorporated association in 1964; formal incorporation was in 1970. Steve was chosen as the association’s first Treasurer. He served that crucial governance and practical role, including writing checks on which AYSO depended for payment of expenses. Steve provided his personal funds to pay association operating expenses and voluntarily incurred a second mortgage on his house to acquire funds to pay AYSO expenses. His vendor connections got AYSO teams equipment and insurance, and the first playoffs at the Los Angeles Coliseum with the U.S. Navy color guard!
Steve’s formative role is co-founder of AYSO, an organization that has endured for 50 years and hugely expanded over that time. Without his leadership and generosity, AYSO would not have survived subsequent to its inception.
Bill Finkel began as a coach in 1977 in his home of Downriver, Mich., in Region 205 and continues to volunteer 37 years later. Bill became Region Chief Coach, Area Chief Coach then Section Chief Coach. In 1991, he joined the National Coaching Commission, and was Chair of the Commission from 2000-2006.
Bill achieved many successes: co-creating AYSO’s National Coaching Course; co-authoring the U-5 Program; enhancing the National Coaching Education Ladder; and developing the reporting program for AYSO Coach Administrators which increased return of coach course rosters. Bill traveled thousands of miles as a volunteer, eager to assist local programs, including Section Meetings and Super Camps.
He was the first winner of the Coaching Spirit Award, which reflected his keen spirit and dedication to AYSO volunteers and children which has inspired other volunteers. His skills, talents, efforts and achievements in delivering exceptional coaching training, creating working models for the effective local delivery of training and developing innovations for AYSO’s programs prompted AYSO to recruit him as a Director for the new AYSO Camps Program. Under Bill’s leadership, the soccer camps grew stronger and provided substantial benefits for the organization. All of Bill’s efforts have further enhanced AYSO’s excellent reputation in the soccer community.
Harry Johnson volunteered from the late 1960s to the late 1980s. He was Regional Commissioner in Manhattan Beach, Calif., for Region 18, in the 60s and successfully developed AYSO there. He became the Section Director for Section 1 which at the time included the territory which became Sections 10 and 11. He created the concept of a Section Meeting, and developed a working model for delivering training opportunities to volunteers on a scale not previously provided; he was key in developing training manuals, including for RAMP.
He provided hard-nosed planning which was invaluable to the National Executive Director – they were partners in successfully addressing practical matters. Harry also assisted the National Board by being a key resource time and again with crucial information regarding operations that the Board utilized for policy making and strategic planning.
Harry was considered the ultimate SD in AYSO’s early years. He successfully facilitated the split of Section 1 into 10, 11 and 1 and in 1984, he was elected to the National Board, where he served with additional distinction until 1988 and made independent contributions to the organization. Harry was also Vice President in 1985 and 1986. He was instrumental in planning AYSO’s 25th Anniversary gala celebration called “Cruising to 50.” He died Jan. 10, 2014, after his nomination was submitted.
During the early years of AYSO, Deuk Perrin was the Regional Commissioner for Region 33 in Encino, Calif., and became a member of the Board of Directors for six years, 1975-1981. He was Vice President for five years and was well known to have worked as the “right hand” for Ron Ricklefs, AYSO’s second President.
Deuk’s historic contributions include origination of the concept of Soccer Camps. He created the working model for the camps and monitored their operations for three years. The Board eventually determined camps required too much time and effort from AYSO’s then limited volunteer pool, but this innovation was groundwork for the modern AYSO Soccer Camps, which have been integral for AYSO.
Deuk also oversaw AYSO playoffs for many years and had the tremendous foresight to develop a national marketing plan. One of his inspirations was AYSO’s first participation in the Rose Bowl Parade on Jan. 1,1979. The parade was viewed by millions, and the outcome was countless inquiries received from around the country at the National Office. At heart, Deuk was also a referee and officiated AYSO games from Palm Springs to New York. He traveled with AYSO’s Foreign Exchange Program teams to referee in Germany in 1991 and was a USSF referee from the late 70s to the early 90s. Soccer was his passion and he contributed where he saw a need—to AYSO’s benefit .
Dick Robson began in Region 21 in Hawthorne, Calif., as an assistant coach and later became Regional Commissioner and Area Director. However, it was as the original Section 4 Director in 1979 that Dick became an historic person. Section 4 covered the entire western United States except for California and included Hawaii. Dick played a fundamental role in the explosive growth of AYSO in the western United States in the 1970s and 1980s.
He traveled often and for extensive distances, and was prominent in the development of new Regions. The fact that Dick resided in California, far away from the Regions he oversaw, made his efforts even more remarkable. Dick most substantial contribution remain his efforts as the personification of a developer throughout the western United States in which he achieved remarkable success. He also created an early form of a super camp or road show in which on-site hands-on training was delivered to managers, coaches and referees in far-flung locations throughout Section 4 such as Eugene, Ore., Provo, Utah and Honolulu, Hawaii. The territory managed by Dick for which he was responsible to the National Board was almost without geographic limits, and he worked tirelessly to nurture the Regions and their volunteers.