Category Archives: soccer

Youth sports leaders to be recognized next week

Thirty-six youth athletes, coaches and youth sports contributors will be recognized for their dedication to positive leadership and outstanding character during the Phoenix Regional Sports Commission’s Youth Sports Awards Banquet next Saturday.

Winners of the Youth Sports of the Year Awards will be announced at the event, which will take place at 8 a.m. at Grand Canyon University’s new arena, 3300 W. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. Register for the event here.

The nominees represent all levels of play from various youth sports offered around the Valley:

Jerod Aker (left), head baseball coach for Apollo High School.


Rob Gorrell – Coach and co-founder of Sandlot All-Stars Baseball.

Pat Murphy – Coach and co-founder of Sandlot All-Stars Baseball, All Nine Baseball Academy.

Patty Egan – Coaches cross country, girls soccer and track at Cactus Shadows High School.

Steve Bomar – Youth girls basketball coach and founder of the Gilbert Genies Basketball Club.

Eric KiblerHorizon High School baseball coach for more than 28 years and three-time recipient of the Arizona Coach of the Year award. In 2005 he received the ABCA High School National Coach of the Year.

Harry Demos CCV STARS sports pastor and director of coaching for boys soccer.

James Smith – Head track and field coach at Westwood High School, head coach and president for the AZ Flames Track Club, USATF Masters Chair.

Melissa Belote Ripley – Has been coaching club swimming for more than 30 years and currently coaches at McClintock High School and Rio Salado Swim Club.

Jordan Demos – Youth Soccer Coach for the CCV Stars Soccer Club.

Jake Peterson – Coaches middle school and high school football/basketball for Rancho Solano Private Schools.

Jaime Pagliarulo – Girls soccer coach for Hamilton High School, San Tan Soccer Club and Arizona Youth Soccer Association.

Steve LewisEmpowerment Through Sports (ETS) Youth Football League coach.

Dameon BlairBoulder Creek High School junior varsity basketball coach.

Jim Ewan – Football coach for Chandler High School since 2001.

Jerod Aker – Baseball coach for Apollo High School; he has been the head coach of a baseball team for a total of 15 years.

Joshua Braun (left) plays basketball at Boulder Creek High School.


Joshua Brown – Plays basketball at Boulder Creek High School, where he is a member of the National Honor Society and ranked 12th in his class.

Hannah Carson –  Track and field, Chandler High School. She’s ranked #1 in the nation for javelin and has qualified for the 2012 Olympics. She will be attending Texas Tech University on scholarship.

Zach Wright – Golf, Pinnacle High School, committed to Louisiana State University. He is currently ranked #12 Boy in the National Polo Rankings

Brandon Senior – Track and Field, honors student at Notre Dame Preparatory High School and member of the AZ Flames Track Club.

Nathan Ponwith – Tennis, Arizona Virtual Academy, participates in the United States Tennis Association.

Tyler Pugh – Football, basketball and baseball; attends Rancho Solano Private School.

Kyung Kim – Golf, Chandler Hamilton High School, currently plans on attending University of Southern California.

Molly Johnson – Baton twirling, Thunderbird High School, member of Phoenix Superstars Twirl Team, plans to attend Fort Hayes University in Kansas.

Dylan Hambright– Track, Arcadia High School, member of the Arizona Elite Track Club.

Shannon Gurley – Volleyball, attends middle school at Rancho Solano Private Schools, also participates in soccer and drama at school.

Wendy Riddell (S.T.A.R. Pony Club, ASU UC Soccer).


Jeffrey Kratzke – Volunteer coach for cross country and track at Cactus Shadows High School.

Hugh Smith-  Executive director of The First Tee of Phoenix, a non-profit organization that provides educational programs, values and healthy choices for Valley youth through the game of golf.

Lisa Sanchez – President of Holiday Park Little League, a volunteer position for an inner city youth baseball league.

Bob Capron – Oversees the Metro Phoenix United States Tennis Association. Inducted into both the USTA Phoenix Hall of Fame and USTA Southwest Hall of Fame in 2005.

John Canter – Started a community weightlifting and training program where 60 local kids are now involved and active.

Wendy Riddell – Youth equestrian coach and S.T.A.R. Pony Club board member, age group coordinator for ASUSC Soccer.

Erik Widmark – Executive director for the Grand Canyon State Games, the largest amateur sports festival of its kind in the country, since 1995.

Chad Robinson – Started the Prime Time Athletics flag football program, the official league of the NFL Flag program.

Peyton Sullivan – Youth Umpire for Deer Valley Little League, certified as a district umpire.

Scott Smith – Volunteer umpire-in-chief for Deer Valley Little League.

The Phoenix Regional Sports Commission was created to “enrich the community through sports.” The 501(c)3 non-profit focuses on three areas: bringing national and international sporting events to the state, assisting in the promotion of existing events and teams and supporting youth sports programs. Learn more.


Fall registration opens for Lil’ Pals who love soccer

Paladin Sports has opened registration for the Lil’ Pals Soccer Academy, offering a six-week recreational sports experience for East Valley children ages 3 to 7.

Participation involves one practice per week and a six-game season. Volunteer coaches help children learn the basics of the sport, adhering to the US Youth Soccer format. Kids are encouraged to have fun while meeting new friends in the community.

Divisions are offered for 3-year-olds (U4), 4-year-olds (U5), 5-year-olds (U6) and 6- to 7-year olds (U7).  Seven-year olds must have one year or less experience in soccer and not be turning 8 before March 1, 2012.

Games will be held on Saturday mornings — Nov. 5, 12 & 19 and Dec. 3, 10 & 17 — at JO Combs Traditional Academy, 37327 N. Gantzel Rd. in San Tan Valley.

Practices are held in a variety of communities, depending on your location and coach. Shin guards are required; cleats are encouraged, but optional. Shin guards will be available for those children who do not have any.

Registration is $20 per child and includes a program T-shirt, soccer ball  and a trophy. Registration for the fall academy ends Friday, Oct. 7. Find more information here. 

Fitness Conditioning with the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team

The U.S. women’s soccer team is the feel good story of the moment.  However, while many of the players were unknown to most of us less than a week ago, they have been working hard for a long time.  Nike, one of the team’s sponsors, has been putting together a series of videos called “Pressure Makes Us” since the team selection process began last September in Atlanta.

Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi famously said that “fatigue makes cowards of us all”  and that football games in November were often won in July.  These three videos of the U.S. team’s training and conditioning shows that to some degree the games during the last few weeks in Germany were won last fall and winter.

Seven surgeries couldn’t stop this soccer player

Savannah Allen (15) of Paradise Valley.

Savannah Allen of Paradise Valley  first stepped onto the soccer field when she was 3 years old. She has been a dedicated soccer player for the last 10 years. Now a freshman at Pinnacle High School, she’s a member of the girls varsity soccer team.

Her dedication to soccer has been challenged by an injury from a car accident that happened when she was 4 years old. She was thrown to the floorboard of the vehicle, landing on her neck and causing nerves in her neck to tear away from her spine. This left her arm paralyzed, an injury that affected her daily. Despite multiple surgeries since the car accident, she continued to play soccer, learning to protect her arm while playing.


In June 2009, Allen underwent a surgical procedure to lengthen her upper arm through a fixator — a device that expands space between a deliberate break in her bones. The four-month process required Allen to turn a knob to expand the bone space each day, eventually resulting in two inches of new bone growth. During this treatment, Allen continued running, training and drills to maintain her stamina.

When the fixator was removed, Savannah could not play for another six weeks. On her first day back to practice, she received a standing ovation from her team and parents. Almost back to 100 percent, Savannah remains an integral part of her team, on and off the field. She faces two more surgical procedures as she continues with high school.

“I always felt part of the team,” she says. “I didn’t miss any practices or games, but it’s really hard not being part of the game. I was worried about not being at the same level as everyone else.”

A 3.7 GPA student, Savannah was on the Olympic Development Team in 2008 and traveled to Spain to participate in the Donasti Cup.

Savannah recently was selected as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Week. She is now eligible for the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year and Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete of the Year awards, which will be handed out at a banquet in May. The awards honor outstanding young athletes who have returned to athletic competition after receiving treatment for an injury, illness, or physical limitation. This is the second year of the program, launched by Phoenix Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine Program.

The parent trap

Many parents, including me, have fallen into this trap one way or another. You impose your own hopes and dreams upon your child’s athletic career. Even when you are conscious of it, this can be hard to avoid. Longtime Valley sports columnist Scott Bordow has warned parents for years about falling into this trap. In his must read column in yesterday’s Arizona Republic, however, Scott reveals that he, too, crossed the line and became too invested in his 14-year-old daughter’s soccer career. It hit him when she told him that she wanted stop playing on her club team.

“Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with pushing your teenagers to excel,” Scott writes. “We want what’s best for our kids. We want them to succeed in whatever they do, and to do that sometimes they need a gentle shove.

“But we shouldn’t burden them with our desires or our dreams, and that’s what I was doing with Emily. I was so proud of her on the soccer field — yes, I enjoyed bragging about her exploits — that I let her potential cloud my judgment.”

Good advice for all of us. — Dan Barr

Do you know a comeback kid?

Now a Xavier College Preparatory High School graduate, 2010 Fan Fave winner Tayler Renshaw returned to her alma mater to present a $1,000 check on behalf of PCH Sports Medicine for Young Athletes to make the inaugural donation for the $1.5 million new sports field.

Do you know a young athlete who was forced to sit on the sidelines because of an injury, illness, or physical limitation? Someone who had to go to physical therapy or treatment while teammates were competing and having fun?

The PCH Sports Medicine Program Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program is a chance to reward that hard work and dedication to get back in the game.

Nominations are being sought for the 2nd annual Comeback Student Athlete of the Year Awards Program, which recognizes outstanding young athletes who have returned to athletic competition after receiving treatment for an injury, illness, or physical limitation.

Throughout the school year, contest nominees will have the chance of being chosen as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Week and highlighted on KPNX Channel 12’s Friday Night Fever or 12News Saturday Today. In April 2011, a panel of judges will choose the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year. An award will also be given for the “Fan Fave” who is selected by online votes. Both winners will be awarded scholarship money to be presented at an end-of-the-year banquet. The winners’ athletic programs will receive cash grants.

Nominations are open to Arizona residents between the ages of 8 and 18 who are currently enrolled in Arizona public, private, charter or home elementary or high schools. Nominees must have participated in organized sports (school, club  or intramurals) and missed part of a season due to injury, illness or physical limitations. You do not have to be a PCH patient to be eligible for the awards program.

Last year, PCH Sports Medicine received more than 100 nominations. From those, 28 comeback student athletes were featured on 12News as weekly winners. Two of those athletes, Brett Butler and Tayler Renshaw, were selected as the PCH Sports Medicine Comeback Student Athlete of the Year and Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete, respectively.

Brett, who graduated from Corona del Sol High School last June, was diagnosed at the PCH Children’s Neuroscience Institute with a brain tumor that caused debilitating seizures. He underwent surgery to remove the growth, but the procedure resulted in paralysis to the right side of his body. He battled a long road to recovery, but eventually returned to Coronal del Sol’s cross country and varsity baseball teams.

Currently a freshman at Arizona State University, Brett was selected as the Comeback Student Athlete of the Year by a panel of judges.

In August 2008, Tayler began feeling ill and over time her health deteriorated to the point where she could barely run or jump. In February of 2009, her sickness was diagnosed by a team of specialists in the Division of Gastroenterology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Tayler found out she has Crohn’s disease.

In order to treat her illness and regain her strength, Tayler had to stop playing soccer for two months and now receives regular infusions every six weeks. Tayler worked extremely hard to get back into top playing condition during the summer before the start of her senior year at Xavier College Preparatory.

Tayler, now a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles, was selected by a public online vote as the Fan Fave Comeback Student Athlete. Over the 19 days of voting, close to 34,000 Fan Fave votes were collected.

Nominations will be accepted through February 27, 2011. To nominate someone you know, visit

Gatorade guys

We recently received news from two Valley school districts about athletes who were named Gatorade Arizona Players of the Year.

George Malki of Pinnacle High School in Phoenix has been named the Gatorade Arizona Boys Soccer Player of the Year, and is the second Pinnacle student to receive the honor. Taylor Kaczmarek, pitcher for the varsity baseball team at Desert Ridge High School in Mesa, was named Gatorade Arizona Baseball Player of the Year.

The award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.

George Maliki.

Malki, a 5-foot-11, 155-pound senior midfielder and forward led the Pioneers to the Class 5A-Division II state championship this past season, recording 22 goals and 26 assists. A 2009 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Youth All-American selection for the club season, Malki is a 2010 First Team All-State selection for Pinnacle. The nation’s No. 32 recruit in the Class of 2010 as rated by, Malki spent his junior season traveling as a member of the United State’s under-17 national soccer team. He has signed a National Letter of Intent to play soccer on scholarship this fall at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

At Pinnacle, Malki has maintained a 3.90 GPA in the classroom. A peer tutor, he has volunteered locally as part of a fundraising campaign to benefit brain tumor research and as a youth soccer coach. His coach is Brock Heykoop.

Taylor Kaczmarek.

Kaczmarek had already been recognized as the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association Player of the Year and East Valley Region Player of the Year. He graduated with a 3.519 GPA, completing engineering courses in the Project Lead the Way program. He also volunteers as a youth baseball instructor.

“This is the second consecutive year Desert Ridge High School has won this state award,” Kaczmarek said. “Last year it was Jake Barrett, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year for baseball.”

He has received a full-ride scholarship to South Mountain Community College and a “a few offers” from Division 1 schools, ” but I haven’t signed yet.” He plans to major in mechanical engineering. — Dan Barr