Larry Caplinger is a living testament to the philosophies of AYSO. In every role he has filled—and they are numerous—he demonstrates his love for AYSO. He practices what he preaches in his tireless volunteering as an administrator, National Referee, B coach, instructor, assessor and mentor. He has served as everything from a team coach to the National Director of Tournaments. He founded AYSO's "Go Get Her" program which led to huge growth of the female AYSO population. He was instrumental in developing the soccerfest concept which lives on in the AYSO National Games—every one at which Larry has been a dedicated volunteer. His devotion to the VIP program for players with disabilities is legendary.
Since 1974, when Larry first set foot on an AYSO soccer field in Running Springs, Calif., he has answered every call for help. He instinctively knows where he is needed and responds without hesitation. Easily switching from the official in charge of an event to the event trash collector, countless hours are donated with a smile, a twinkle in his eye and a toothpick between his teeth! Larry ultimately donated his knees to AYSO through his love of refereeing! He loves the kids, the volunteers, the sport and the organization. The Caplinger Soccer Field in Running Springs continues to host hundreds of young players each season.
The third generation of the Caplinger family is enjoying AYSO. Larry's his two sons grew up in the organization. Michael is now a resident of Lompoc, Calif., and his son plays in Region 77. Son John is a resident of Peoria, Ariz., and both of Larry's granddaughters will play soccer this year in Region 310.
Larry has put his heart and soul into AYSO for over 30 years, and has, along with his AYSO Regional Commissioner of Region 165 wife, Sandy, gathered hundreds of friends along the way. "Mentor, example, role model, friend"—these words trip easily off the tongues of all who know him. His quiet, tireless giving and guidance have merited him numerous fans and their words say it best: "Larry has never sought recognition—the smiles on the faces of the kids are his reward. He has always been an example of positive coaching, fair play and tireless devotion to AYSO. He is truly deserving of the highest recognition that the organization can bestow."
In 1970, an unusual question was posed: "Why can't girls play in AYSO?" The wrong answer—"not now"—to a father of five, including three daughters, began a tenacious regime to prove this was the right time and AYSO was the right place for girl's soccer to blossom. Armed with the support of parents, visionary Joe Karbus organized the first AYSO girl's soccer division in Granada Hills, Calif., and he officially introduced the female component to AYSO in 1971, when the membership adopted the program organization-wide. Joe took on the position of Director of Publicity for the national program and made many presentations to regions about girls' participation. Inter-regional games were scheduled to grow the concept. Karbus truly expanded the meaning of "Everyone Plays" and AYSO currently is 48 percent female!
Joe was a devoted father to his five children, throwing himself into all of the activities of the relatively new youth sports organization, AYSO. He had a passion for the sport as a coach, referee and administrator and the determination to include females because it was the right thing to do. As Ron Ricklefs, past AYSO National President writes, "Would soccer for girls have had such a solid start up and continued success as it did..without Mr. Karbus? Probably so, somewhere along the years. But as one looks at the success of the game for women in the U.S., were it not for his foresight and hard work, would we still be talking about it rather than doing it?" AYSO honors Joe Karbus for his role as the "father" of girl's soccer in AYSO.
Eric Wynalda cites his beginnings in soccer as a youth player in AYSO Region 5 in Westlake, Calif. He went on to be a three-time All-State high school player, Athlete of the Year as a freshman at San Diego State and a professional player for 12 years in the APSL, Europe and MLS. He has the distinction of scoring Major League Soccer's first goal and earning 111 points in 110 MLS matches. Eric experienced three World Cups playing for the USA and in 2000 was Honda's Player of the Decade. After his retirement, he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2004. He is currently serving as a color commentator for ABC/ESPN and is known for his outspoken and unvarnished opinions of the games.
Eric's role as dad of four has brought him full circle back to AYSO with only his youngest haven't had played AYSO yet. Eric attended the weekly practices, where he says that many of the dads are former youth and high school soccer players who he teamed both with and against. Each practice is like a reunion with old friends—and he loves the cycle that AYSO has created in their lives. Eric has also contributed volunteer time to AYSO as a clinic trainer and presenter at the annual Apricot Jam Tournament. "Soccer has done a great job of producing great people," he says, "and I am proud to be a part of it."