SOLANA BEACH — When Lisa Wexler started the 2017 season with only 12 players, the Solana Beach Soccer Club coach knew she would have her work cut out for her.
The situation became more challenging when one member of her under-19 team went out with a season-ending injury in the first game.
“That meant every person would have to play every minute of every game without any subs,” Wexler said, knowing it was an unrealistic expectation. “The girls are older. Most of them play other sports or have jobs or other commitments.”
The full team rarely, if ever, made practice, and that initial game ended with only eight players on the field.
“Needless to say, we got creamed,” Wexler said. “But they didn’t get discouraged.
“For most of the season we only had 10 players per game and we were playing some gnarly other leagues that were hard-core,” she added. “They could have easily bailed, but they showed up, stayed with it and pushed through. They didn’t give up”
For that never-say-quit attitude, the entire team was presented the Peter Schmid Sportsmanship Award at the recreational soccer club’s annual meeting April 17.
Recipients were Keila and Ester De La O, Mariana Medina, Erika Monroy, Sara Niedernhofer, Califia and Keana Oldham, Caitlin Sullivan, Jessy and Rubie Wexler and Kalea and Sophie Williams.
Also honored with the award were Asher Engel and Rhys Cohen, who both played in the under-7 division.
“Asher is the kind of young man we’re going to be proud of coming out of Solana Beach,” his coach, Doug Gilbert, said. “You’ll remember his name … probably because of his character.
“He’s such a fine teammate and individual,” he added. “He’s always smiling, hustling out there. His pride and his leadership were so impressive.”
The first-grader also turned out to be a skilled player, so Gilbert asked him if he wanted to move up a division.
“He said, ‘No, coach, this is my team,’” Gilbert said. “I asked my son, who was one of his teammates, what I should say and he told me Asher always tried to include the other players, either in the drills or later in the season.
“He was looking to get them to score, whereas most people would try to score every time,” he added. “I found Asher challenged me as a coach, trying to be a better person. It just was a real honor to work with him this year.”
Coach Ari Crandall said Rhys tries hard, encourages others and “is the most enthusiastic kid I’ve ever seen on the soccer field, whether it’s about practice, about cleaning up after practice or showing up for the games, how his uniform looks, playing well.”
The Peter Schmid Sportsmanship Award was established by Anthony and Amanda Schmid in honor of their son to continue to foster his love of soccer following his untimely death.
Coaches are encouraged to nominate players who demonstrate good sportsmanship. Recipients are chosen by the board of directors for their citizenship, helpfulness, attitude and loyalty on and off the field.
“That’s really what the club is all about,” Jeff Lyle, club president, said. “Playing skills are not a factor in the nominations.”
Marc Halpern, Patrick Johnson and Patrick Germon were honored with the Scott Billington Memorial Award, which was created to pay tribute to the former president, who passed away in 2015 at the age 55 after a long battle with cancer.
Recipients are chosen for leadership, selfless enthusiasm and contributions to the club that honor Billington’s spirit.
Halpern stepped up before the season started when Lyle had an under-10 team without a coach. Halpern’s only requirement was that Johnson be his assistant.
“After that one of our U-12 coaches found he could no longer coach … and almost immediately I got an email from Patrick (Johnson) saying he would do it,” Lyle said. “So he went from being an innocent parent on the sidelines to coaching two teams.
“I really appreciate you guys stepping up,” he added. “This is a volunteer organization and it shows there are a number of individuals that, when the need comes up, you dive in.”
“This is really an honor,” Halpern said. “I knew Scott. His son played on one of my teams. It’s pretty amazing to be in a community like this where everyone does their part.”
Lyle said Germon, after coaching multiple teams for multiple years, asked to be an assistant coach only for the 2017 season because of his other volunteer commitments.
But when coaches were needed, he stepped up to lead a team and helped find coaches for other teams.
“We had eight or nine players who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to play,” Lyle said. “You’re a valuable resource for the community and the kids.”
“The kids are what it’s all about,” Germon said. “That’s what drives me.”