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Dissolved Soccer Team Reunites, Hopes to Join Different Organization

July 31, 2001|ERIN PARK and ZANTO PEABODY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The Thunder rolling onto local soccer fields this fall will be much the same Palmdale team that was ordered disbanded after a season-capping brawl with a Chino Hills team involving players' parents and coaches.

The American Youth Soccer Organization boys squad known as the Eagles was directed on July 18 to disperse. Many of the same players, however, have been holding practice sessions with their old coach. Known as the Thunder, they plan to join another organization.

The other team in the fight, the Chino Hills Chiefs, also was disbanded, and coaches Ron Munch and Jaime Perez await an AYSO hearing on their appeal of a lifetime ban from coaching in the AYSO. Chiefs' parent Mark Kaylor, who received a lifetime ban from attending any AYSO functions, also has appealed.

The Chiefs have not reunited.

In the aftermath of the June fight that involved 30 people and rocked suburban soccer from Orange County to the Antelope Valley, some parents say the AYSO's order was too lenient because it did not bar the players from joining other teams. Many parents think members of the Eagles should not be allowed to play under any name.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 2, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
Soccer team--A story in Tuesday's California section incorrectly stated that a disbanded soccer team was from Chino Hills. The team was from Chino.

The association, which has imposed a gag order on parents and players, says it cannot punish the youngsters for their parents' mistakes.

Thunder coach Jesse Elizondo plans to enter his 14-year-olds in the California Youth Soccer Assn., known as club soccer, in September. And he still hopes to return to the less competitive but more popular AYSO. In the meantime, Elizondo, his players and their parents remain tight-lipped about the fight at the June 24 division championship in San Juan Capistrano that prompted the teams' dissolution.

"We were not banned, and we have not gotten into trouble. We can practice. . . . I just tell the kids that we have to learn something good from the bad experience and move on," Elizondo said as his team practiced at Pelona Vista Park in Palmdale.

But the team's rapid rebound has angered some of its former competitors.

"As far as I'm concerned, [the AYSO] didn't handle the situation," said Lauren Leslie, a Lancaster team registrar. "I'm disillusioned with the organization."

The AYSO order bans the teams from playing until next season in any form of organized soccer. But the game that ended in the fight was the season finale. Teams disband and re-form each year anyway to spread its talent around.

"Nobody understands that the teams would be ending right now anyway," said Mike Lucariello, a parent of a former Chiefs player. "All the kids are still playing. Nobody's banned them from playing soccer."

Because some players hope to return to the AYSO, the boys and their parents are obeying the AYSO's instructions prohibiting them from speaking publicly about the incident, said Paul Rivas, a Lancaster AYSO coach who contends the Eagles got off easy.

"It's like, be silent about it and maybe everyone will forget about it," Rivas said. The AYSO, he said, should have publicized the names of everyone involved.

AYSO spokeswoman Lolly Keys said the parents were gagged to protect the privacy of those involved in the fight and to keep information from the AYSO hearings confidential.

Keys acknowledged that the AYSO's punishment of the Eagles was light. It did not want to punish the children unduly for their coaches' and parents' offenses, she said.

"Sometimes we ask, 'Is it fair to the players who won't see action because of their parents?' " Keys said. "But it's not like we're telling them they can't go outside and play. We want the parents to see their actions are having a negative effect."

Tommie Lee White, a Cal State Northridge professor who teaches sports psychology, said the association's stated mission to promote character through sport clashes with the parents' desire for competitiveness.

Feuding parents often try to soil one another's reputations through the soccer organizations, said Craig Irish, a district commissioner for the California Youth Soccer Assn. Some have already cautioned him against allowing Elizondo to bring his team into the organization.

The CYSA will accept the renamed team when the AYSO ruling expires, Irish said.

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Times staff writer David Hermann contributed to this story.

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