Spillers makes a soccer career of AYSO

Each year she is placed on a new team. A new team, a new jersey color. All with the same AYSO insignia in the corner. Some of her teammates are recognizable from previous seasons, while others are completely new, but her presence is constant.

Most people consider AYSO soccer a children’s league, a recreational activity that should not surpass the fifth grade, but for Mason Spillers, junior, it is much more than that.

Spillers began playing AYSO soccer as many do, in the first grade. For 11 years now, Spillers has played on a variety of AYSO teams. The early beginnings were socially based.

“At that time, all of my friends were involved, and my older brother had tried it,” Spillers said. “With so much free time as a kid, activities like AYSO were very fun.”

Like any kid who becomes serious about a sport, by high school Spillers considered quitting AYSO for a more serious, club team.

“Freshman year I tried club,” Spillers said. “I went to a couple of practices.”

But, ultimately Spillers decided the atmosphere was too competitive for her liking.

“I realized how in club it’s competitive and not played for fun anymore,” Spillers said.

That same year, Spillers also tried out for the freshman soccer team at Central.

“I didn’t make it, but I then appreciated it later on because I realized I wouldn’t have met the people in AYSO, and I wouldn’t have played as much,” Spillers said. “AYSO is about giving equal playing time to everyone.”

Even though Spillers did not have luck in club or school soccer teams, that did not stop her from continuing to play the sport. Because so many people typically quit AYSO by high school, Spillers now plays for the only AYSO team in Hinsdale, and their games are played against AYSO Western Springs.

“I stuck with is because it was a good out-of-season sport,” Spillers said. “I did track and cross-country in middle school, and running is such a big part of soccer, so it kept me exercised.”

Although there are very few people she can still share the AYSO experience with, Spillers contends that her high school teams have been her favorite teams.

“In high school, the team is combined with both boys and girls of all ages in high school,” Spillers said. “My skills have improved, playing with the variety of kids. It’s been my favorite (team) so far.”

The variety of genders and ages is not the only difference that comes with playing higher level AYSO. Unlike the elementary school program, where parents of the team members volunteer to coach, high school AYSO hires British soccer players, who work for the Chicago Fire, to coach the teams.

“(Our coaches) are interesting to meet and talk to and are also more serious about the sport and have so much experience and skill, compared to when we were coached by parents,” Spillers said.

Spillers credits her coaches for helping her improve as a player. Usually a mid-fielder, Spillers does most of the work in games, running all over the field. Though AYSO is a recreational league, Spillers plays to win.

“I’m very rough, and I slide tackle,” Spillers said. “I’ve progressed in my control of the ball and skills. I’m not scared of the ball anymore.”

Spillers has reason to be scared. She jokingly describes herself as a “target”, because she always seems to get hit by the ball during games.

“A couple of those times, the ball has left imprints of the octagons on my legs,” Spillers said.

Spillers admits she is still not a perfect player, and there is always room for improvement.

“(I could) improve on the fact that I’m clumsy in general,” Spillers said. “I fall over the ball every minute.”

After playing for so many years, Spillers has enjoyed many proud moments. This year, she scored two goals in one game. Because she does not play as a forward, Spillers admits she rarely scores points.

“It was a moment for me that showed my hard work has paid off, and that I’ve improved over the years,” Spillers said. “Also, it showed the guys and the other team, which was partially made up of club players, that AYSO isn’t a complete joke.”

Though, by default, Spillers’ AYSO soccer career will end as her high school career ends, Spillers plans to continue playing soccer in college campus recreational leagues.