Youth is usually an asset in sports. When an athlete reaches 30, he's considered to be somewhere near the top of the hill, facing the downside. But in one league, that's the age when a player gets started.
In the Valley Soccer Federation, only men 30 and older are eligible except for the goal keepers. The federation has 16 teams, most of which are ethnically based. The International Soccer Club is made up of Armenians and Russians, the Jets are German, the L.A. Hurricanes are Argentine, the Incas are Peruvian and the Mid-Valley Hawks are primarily Italian. In the Santa Clarita Valley, there are the Hot Spurs, a team of American-born players, and the Rusty Spurs, made up of players in their 40s and 50s.
There are also two Israeli teams--the Valley Stars and the Winnetka One--as well as the Woodland Hills Foot Club's blue and green teams, made up mostly of English, Irish and Scottish players.
Many of the participants have been playing soccer in semipro leagues for years, but the Valley action remains light and friendly.
"We don't keep standings so we don't have blood-and-guts type of competition," said Ken Johnson, league commissioner and a member of the Woodland Hills Foot Club's green team.
The league has strict conduct rules and in its eight years of existence has banned several players for roughness. "It's intense for 90 minutes," Johnson said. "But after the game we go over and shake hands and say what a great game it was."
The teams play every Sunday throughout the year at parks and schools in Mission Hills, Valencia, Thousand Oaks, Glendale, Chatsworth and elsewhere.
Johnson's team pays $2,000 a year to the Los Angeles Unified School District for the use of Parkman Junior High in Woodland Hills. With the referee fee, each player pays $10 a month to cover expenses.
Since March, the San Fernando Valley Department of Parks and Recreation has been educating children about the dangers of drug abuse through the Eric Dickerson Rangers anti-drug program, inspired by Nancy Reagan's nation-wide "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign. Dickerson was named by Reagan to chair the program.
The recent fatal cocaine overdoses of Len Bias and Don Rogers have raised awareness in the minds of youths.
"Just talking to youngsters, I can see they're alarmed and shocked that gifted, talented athletes are passing away from drugs," said Jim Andervich, coordinator of the Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Complex.
The program, which involves 11 different clubs around the Valley, is directed at children ages 7-12. Each club, with about 10 members and one adult leader, raises money through car washes and sponsors trips to Disneyland and Magic Mountain.
"It's to tell kids you don't have to take drugs, even if your peers are pressuring you," said John Pierce, sports director of the Valley park department.
Clubs are located at: Branford Park, Fernangeles Park, Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Park, Valley Plaza Park, Northridge Park, Pacoima Park, Sepulveda Park, Woodland Hills Park, Victory Vineland Park and Lanark Park.
The Valley Region Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament, involving 50 of the best baseball teams and 10 top girls softball teams from Valley parks, began Saturday at Van Nuys/Sherman Oaks Park, Balboa Park and Hjelte Field.
The teams play in a round-robin format with four or five teams in each group. The top two in each group advance to a single-elimination tournament, which concludes July 26.
Games are played Monday through Thursday at 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Trophies will be awarded to the first- and second-place teams.
The Agoura Hills Parks and Recreation Department is accepting applications for registration in its men's fall basketball program, which is open to players 16 and over.
Games are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Agoura High, Sept. 8-Nov. 28.
Teams may register at Agoura Hills City Hall by submitting a completed application and roster, along with league fees ($215 in-city, $258 out-of-city) by Aug. 22.