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It Was a Banner Day for Soccer Parents


One soccer mom made a midnight run to Kinko's to get that last team photo laminated. Another encountered sticky technical difficulties when her glue gun ran amok on her son's team banner. Feeling pressure to do good by her daughter's team, one woman sought consultation from a professional graphic artist before taking scissors to the felt.

For these and other soccer-gripped parents throughout Southern California, Saturday offered their big chance to show off just how crafty they can be when it comes to winning one competition that requires their heavy hand: The Soccer Team Banner Contest.

One first-time soccer dad--a professional animator whose credits include the films "Hercules" and "Little Mermaid," an artist so serious that he lives in a downtown L.A. loft--admitted to feeling a bit humbled early Saturday morning as he surveyed and photographed the banners on parade before him.

"This all was a new medium for me," said Bruce Morris, 44. "I wish I had seen examples from last year. I would have done better on color and legibility."

Morris and others uninitiated in this fall tradition watched in awe as American Youth Soccer Organization opening day ceremonies unfolded at South Pasadena High School early Saturday morning. It's one of dozens that annually take place in September across Southern California, drawing thousands to local stadiums, a reflection of youth soccer's surge in popularity.

The morning typically culminates when the uniformed kids--jerseys all the colors of a 64-Crayola box--parade around the track holding their banners high.

Although the young players get the cheers, the elaborate banners draw the oohs and ahs.

"I'm sensing there is quite a bit of behind-the-scenes competition going on here," Morris commented as the banners passed, a display of bold colors, airbrush techniques, glitter and digitally produced photographs.

Only kids could come up with the crazy team names: Wild Peas, Thrashing Mooses, Zooming Zebras, Purple Pythons, Blue Unstoppables, Cotton Candy Kickers.

But only a parent bent on making a child proud could become an overnight expert on illustration, bringing these bizarre names to life on a 3-foot-by-5-foot team banner. And only a parent--after pulling an all-nighter making the banner--could rouse his or her youngster in time to make the 7:30 a.m. ceremony and banner judging.

Yet they arrived Saturday morning on the high school field, carrying their banners like some kind of holy vestments, the centerpiece of excitement for a day that would be hot and hectic with games, teams photos and packed family schedules.

Virginia Quan, mother of six, full-time middle school counselor and part-time soccer team mom, stands out among veteran banner makers. Quan has volunteered to make three team banners each of the past few years, winning at least five first-place awards.

She said completing the banners on time is all about organization. Quan's strategy is to keep it simple, keep the lines clean and make sure there is a stark contrast between the letters and the background.

Quan is particularly proud this year of the She Devil team banner featuring a 2 1/2-foot-tall red devil pasted against a white backdrop and decked out in a pinned-on beaded necklace and soccer ball earrings.

"It's really gaudy, but that's what the girls like," she said.

Although many of the winners were still being tabulated Saturday, Quan received word that her little devil design placed second in the Girls Under 12 Years of Age category.

Banners are judged by local elected officials who manage to show up on time.

To his relief, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), showed up too late. "The first thing you learn in politician school is never be a judge," he joked. "Because one team will like me and one team won't."

Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) showed up early and was immediately handed a clipboard. "I'm doing this anonymously," she said.

Points are given for creativity and overall design. But a banner in which you can tell that the team members participated in the craftsmanship gets extra points.

The under 10-year-old boys of the Thrashing Mooses, (brown jerseys translated to a brown-furred moose) were jumping all around their 3-D banner depicting a smiling moose head. The mom who created the moose head was lost in the grandstands, but the boys pointed out that they were the ones who cut out the little moose soccer players surrounding the banner.

In South Pasadena, winning entries receive a simple ribbon. In the Moorpark region and elsewhere winners may get anything from a small trophy to tickets to see a Galaxy soccer game in Los Angeles.

Sure, parents say they make the banners for the fun it, to promote team spirit and sportsmanship. But under their breath, the secrets roll out. They did it because no one else wanted to.

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