Get Your Kicks

Soccer has dribbled its way into becoming one of the most popular sports in town, but that wasn’t always the case. It was really considered a foreign sport when Cam Camarena came to Santa Barbara to play for UCSB in 1974.

Camarena is credited with bringing AYSO (the American Youth Soccer Organization) to the community in 1976. “I thought that their philosophy was exactly what soccer needed,” Camarena said.

Indeed, the philosophy — based on the concepts that soccer is open to all, everyone plays, and teams are balanced, with an emphasis on positive coaching and good sportsmanship — is still at the forefront of the organization almost 30 years later.

After an initial struggle to popularize the sport — that first year AYSO had just six teams of boys only — over the years Santa Barbara’s seen super moms morph into soccer moms. “Last year we had 256 teams (almost 3,000 kids),” said John Maloney, the AYSO commissioner for this region.

“No matter what happens, you play three-fourths of the game (up from half the game in previous years),” he said. There’s a huge difference between that and more traditional competitive team situations, he said. “But more game time helps develop the skills.”

As their expertise develops, many kids leave behind the politically correct world of AYSO for the more competitive club teams, which has caused some conflicts over the years.

“This town has gone through a little bit of the club wars. We’ve got several prominent soccer personalities

in this town. And different attempts to form a club that kind of reflects the diversity of this town,” said UCSB Men’s Head Coach Tim VomSteeg.

“One of the reasons that everybody hated everybody is that kids were trying to play both (AYSO and club teams) and that upset people because you’re going to let somebody down,” said Camarena.

“(In AYSO) there’s no punishment for not coming to practice,” said Andy Roteman, coach administrator for the organization. Without the balanced team requirement, the kids who play club experience a higher level of competition. “The cream gets to play with the cream,” he said. “We’ve had coaches take their team club because the kids want to keep playing together. … Then they pay $50 to $60 per month to belong to a club team (versus $80 per season for AYSO), plus tournament fees and traveling. So where is (a) parent going to give their allegiance to?”

Partly in response to the issues between the club teams and AYSO, a soccer coalition was started about two years ago. “We’ve been meeting once a month to work together instead of working against each other. Even though so many kids are involved with soccer, we still have less fields than everyone else because we’re always fighting within ourselves,” said Camarena, who currently coaches the Legends girl’s soccer team. One of the agreements achieved through the coalition is that club teams would not recruit AYSO players during the regular (fall) season.

“As popular as soccer is, I think one thing that has really hurt the overall development at the highest level has been the politics of this town; unfortunately, there always seems to be (politics) at every place you go. You have the recreational people thinking that the competitive level is wrong and vice versa. But I think that has changed in the last two years,” said Camarena.

AYSO’s Maloney agreed that things are improving. Currently, AYSO has a good working relationship with both FCSB and Legends (the two leading clubs in town), he said. “That wasn’t always the case.

“There’s a lot to be gained by the soccer organizations working together. There are not enough soccer fields in Santa Barbara, and the situation may become worse. AYSO has used UCSB’s soccer fields for the past five years, but it doesn’t look too good (that) they’ll be there in the fall,” Maloney said. “When UCSB instituted parking fees last year, it allowed AYSO to pre-sell discount tickets to parents. Now they want to raise fees, plus the new parking services automated system isn’t capable of handling our volume,” said Maloney, who has been working to come to an agreement with the university. In addition to an estimated $60,000 in parking fees, AYSO now pays about $28,000 per year to use the fields and monitor parking. “It definitely isn’t an inexpensive venue.”

If negotiations with USCB fall apart, AYSO has the right of first refusal to use Girsh Park in the fall, Maloney said. It would be less expensive than UCSB, but there are fewer fields, so games would have to be played on Saturdays and Sundays, instead of just Saturdays, which could cause conflicts for some families.

One of the things Camarena would like to see the soccer coalition do is bring the community together to buy land to develop dedicated soccer fields. “It would be a dream come true to have community soccer fields.”

Soccer for grown-ups

Part of the popularity of soccer is attributable to being able to start playing at such a young age — AYSO starts at 41/2 — but opportunities to play also abound for adults.

At the recreational level there’s the “huff and puff league” (HAPCO). “(People) come out there to have fun and don’t worry about the sport; it’s really a social recreational event. They’re probably a bunch of people that never played soccer before but their kids are playing, so they’re now trying to come out and play themselves a bit,” said Dennis Van Alphen, who founded the website five years ago as a resource for centralized local soccer information.

Also popular for moms and dads was the PAYSO (parents of AYSO league) that later turned into the more competitive Santa Barbara Adult Soccer League, said Van Alphen. Limited to players 30 years and older, he said, the league is “still competitive but not as competitive as the others. There are guys that are over 50 but the majority are in their late 30s.”

He said the best league in town is the Central Coast League. “One of the teams, Durango, just won the state’s championship a week ago. … They have a bunch of players from Westmont and SBCC and UCSB, among other players that are at a good level.”

There’s also the Southern Union Soccer League, said Van Alphen. Finding enough fields is a challenge for the adult leagues as well as the kids. He said the only fields with lights that are available to adult leagues are at La Colina and Santa Barbara junior high schools.

For more information on adult soccer, visit

Paying the way to play

With so much focus on youth soccer, there’s some debate as to whether it really paves the way to a college scholarship, as some parents seem to think. “In Division 1, you are allowed basically 9.9 full scholarships and most teams carry a roster of 30 full time players. We have eight scholarships, so we’re not quite fully funded,” said UCSB Men’s Head Soccer Coach Tim VomSteeg.

“The potential of a kid receiving money is very small in terms of the scheme of things. … At USCB we average about 20 emails and letters a day from players, four to five tapes a week. … If I go on a trip for week or something you’ll have 90-100 emails from kids,” said VomSteeg, whose team has been ranked in the top 20 for the past two years. There are 200 Division 1 colleges, and probably six new players added to each program each year, so that’s 1,200 spots opening up, he said.

The competition starts early. Top players from AYSO are routinely recruited to play on club teams where the talk of college begins in earnest. “Mostly what will happen is you’ll go to a major tournament and you’ll put out a thing with your name and stats, so you can email (college coaches),” said Julia Bottiani, a Goleta Valley Junior High eighth grader who “plays up” on the Legends under-19 team. “My coach, he tells all the juniors, ‘you should be emailing to the schools you want to go to.’ ”

Of the graduates of the last year’s two Legends teams, coach Cam Camarena said at least 25 are playing college soccer on scholarships, an impressively high percentage.

Division 1 coaches are allowed five evaluations of a player, so club tournaments are very efficient. “The top kids are all playing against each other. With top clubs, (you) have a good change to see kids that are not only good players but are playing against good players,” said VomSteeg. There’s very little chance of a San Diego State recruiter coming to Santa Barbara to watch a high school game.

With more and more kids playing in this country, VomSteeg says soccer is really reaping the benefits. “We’re able in soccer, for the first time, to pick up the really good athletes that in years before would have played other sports. Thanks to really good contracts for pros, what’s changed now, we have some kids that would have played basketball or baseball, and instead they are choosing to play soccer.”

Behind the scenes of Soccer Moms

‘Hotter than the other moms” is the reputation Santa Barbara soccer moms have around the tournaments. They’re fitter and more stylish, said playwright David Starkey, who takes an entertaining look at the force behind the sidelines with his play, Soccer Moms, opening tonight at the Center Stage Theatre. “You go away to tournaments and they’re checking each other out at the breakfast bar.

“The intensity of the moms on the sidelines was really astonishing to me,” said the poet and English professor, who three years ago migrated from Chicago to marry into an enthusiastic soccer family.

“I thought you could do a play where all the action takes place on the sidelines.” While true soccer moms focus on the field “with laser-like attention for whole game,” in the play, the parents also have their share of offsides R-rated adventures.

Set in Santa Barbara, Starkey’s “gentle satire” has played in North Hollywood and Seattle, but tonight will be its local debut. After one show, Starkey heard a theatergoer say, “I hope no one from Santa Barbara is in audience.” But he thinks people will enjoy laughing at themselves. No one more so than his wife, Sandy, whom he describes as “one of the more intense soccer moms in town.

“Real life is not nearly the soap opera I make it out to be … but there are some cases of life imitating art,” Starkey said.

For example, in the play one of the moms gets a personal trainer to help her daughter’s soccer. “I wrote that and then subsequently Sandy got a personal trainer for (daughter) Julia,” he laughed.

Soccer Moms is the premier show of New Bard Productions, founded by Starkey and Jinny Webber. E. Bonnie Lewis directs a cast that includes Michelle Osborne, Deborah Helm, Tiffany Story and Mike Walker.

Soccer Moms plays at the Center Stage Theatre, upstairs in Paseo Nuevo, at 8 p.m. today through Saturday with a 2 p.m. Feb. 28 matinee. Tickets are $15 general admission and $13 for student and seniors. Call 963.0408 or visit

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

CALM Design House Showcases View

The first thing that strikes you is the view. Not only can you see the forest through the trees, but the ocean glimmers invitingly through the oaks as well. Talk about a perfect canvas. Architect William Harrison took full advantage of the prime property in creating this spectacular Montecito showhouse to benefit CALM.

Harrison described the house as mission revival with a heavy arts and crafts influence, but there’s really only one word for the property at 610 Cima Vista Lane — gorgeous.

For 20 years, CALM has raised money locally for child abuse prevention and assistance services through design showcases. “This is a departure for us, our homes in the past have had different designers in each room,” said CALM Development Director Rebecca J. Adler.

While the long-established form of showhouse fundraisers have been very popular and will continue in 2005, this was an offer the nonprofit couldn’t refuse. Traditional Home Magazine, which does showhouses across the country, had paired with Harrison Design Associates to produce the home in Montecito as an editorial feature when they approached CALM about being the charity beneficiary. “It was really exciting to hear about … the scale and grandeur of this project for us. And also to call the other charities who Traditional Home had participated with, they all said, ‘this is the best thing that’s every happened to us,'” said Adler.

Built around a nine-acre protected oak tree conservancy, the house is impressive for its serene beauty and its feeling of being at one with the land, which is even more impressive considering it was built and furnished to perfection in just one year.

“All of the players here are equally as important,” said Robert Young, west coast editor of Traditional Home. “… You have Harrison (Design Associates) who’s the architect and they also are the developer, and Giffin and Crane is the contractor, CALM is the charity, then Barry Dixon is the (interior) designer and Katie O’Reilly Rogers is the landscape architect. … We gave over 100 percent and 200 percent and they’ve delivered. Everybody’s just been extraordinary and everybody’s enjoyed working on it.”

“There was good clear concise direction on this job at all times,” said Geoff Crane president and COO of the builder, Giffin and Crane. “In a project like this, everything has to fall into place at once. The landscaping had to start at a time it wouldn’t normally be starting. As soon as we had an area that we could confine and barricade off (they started) excavation and grading and planting. It was a little unconventional,” said Crane, who credited his Project Manager Lindsey Adams with keeping construction running smoothly.

With the tight schedule, one of the biggest challenges was scheduling. Visitors to the showcase will enter the house through a charming green and white motor court, surrounded by white camellias, white azalea, field grown boxwood and in the center of it all a white cyclamen tree. “We had to crane in this big tree before they finished the arch,” said landscape architect Rogers. “The tree wasn’t ready to be brought up for three weeks and they had to get the arch up because of the stonemason’s schedule.”

“The stone on the side of the house is literally from the land,” said Young. “These are all hand carved from these big boulders that came from Santa Barbara sandstone.” Once you enter the house, the feeling of indoor/outdoor fusion continues, thanks in part to the well-designed windows that maximize the views, and also to Dixon’s extremely textural, almost primal choices. “I think Barry took … this concept of earth, wind and fire and kind of just being inspired by the elements … that are here in Santa Barbara … everything that makes it such a magical place,” said Young.

The master bath’s oversized shower features very unusual glass tile by Walker Zanger, tumbled to look like sea glass. You could get waterlogged trying to choose between that and the dazzling ocean view spa tub. The walls are done in Venetian plaster burnished to a gorgeous glossiness that has to be seen to be believed. “People that come here are seeing the cutting edge products for the home and then they see it used in really creative ways,” said Young.

A favorite room of the architect’s is the outdoor sitting/dining relaxing space overlooking the pool. “You can sit there and watch the sunset over the harbor. Like a little pier or point outside of the house, then, walk outside of that little narrow gangplank and there’s a wonderful view back up into the mountains,” said Harrison.

Also contributing to the serene, peaceful feeling is the yoga/massage room adjacent to a ground floor wine cellar, dining area and screening/game room. “The yoga/massage room is kind of a Zen thing in California,” said Harrison, who has offices in both Atlanta and Santa Barbara. “But we’re seeing it all over the country. … People wanting to have the ability to sort of meditate and relax.”

Under designer Dixon’s touch, clever ideas, juxtapositions of old and new, eastern and western cultures and design inspiration abound. “A showhouse is like a fashion show,” said Young. And this is certainly one show you won’t want to miss.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 19, 2004.

Generations plug in

From womb to tomb, technology is changing how we communicate and connect with our families. Leslie Dinaberg boots up, logs in and decrypts the source code of our tech-savvy lives.

Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Bonding before birth

Starting almost at conception, people bond with their children in ways they never used to in the early stages of pregnancy, said Sociocultural Anthropologist Francesca Bray, a professor at UCSB.

“Already at six weeks you knew if it was a boy or girl … you start to relate to it, you give it a name, you can circulate the ultrasound to all of your friends. How many people have an ultrasound pinned up to their fridge it’s the first picture of the baby,” said Bray, who has conducted extensive research on the roles on new technology in everyday life.


When the baby’s born, the archive takes shape. “The social pressure that we had to get those photos up on the Internet for the grandparents and the in-laws was tremendous,” said a new mother. “And you have to keep those photos coming, really on a weekly basis, to keep them happy.”

Not only are those early childhood memories stored on the computer, they’re also on the television, thanks to camcorders, and in miniature form on cell phones and PDAs. Now that we’re spending more time in our cars than ever before, SUVs and other family-friendly cars come equipped with DVD players to keep the back seat peanut gallery constantly entertained.

Then there’s the “nanny cam” (a stuffed bear wired with a video camera), the technology of choice for freaked-out parents afraid to leave their little darling in another person’s care. Upscale daycare centers even offer 24-hour Internet surveillance for parents while they’re at work.

“Technologies are marketed to moms not as a fulfillment of desire but as a fulfillment of responsibility,” said Bray.

Keeping track of the kids

There’s a whole new set of perceived needs that have grown up around these new technologies, including the need to know where your family members are and what they’re doing every hour of the day.

“My 11-year-old daughter Kyle went on a play date last week and emailed me a picture of her and her friend all dressed up, and the picture was taken from a cell phone,” said Stacy DeBroff, author of The Mom Book and founder of

“This last summer, my son Brooks (9) went to sleep-away camp in New Hampshire for seven weeks. He was completely fine with the separation, but I was a wreck,” said DeBroff. But every day, the camp took dozens of digital pictures of the campers and emailed the whole day’s worth to parents.

Teens lead the way

Teens often are the instigators of the family’s first foray onto the Internet and end up teaching other family members how to use it, according to research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “These new developments reverse the tradition of parents as teachers and children as learners and can play a beneficial role in family life as the teens gain in self-respect and show their competence to their parents,” found the study.

“Children have the most facility with new technologies but parents and grandparents are inexorably drawn in too because of their family roles. They have to learn to click a mouse,” observed Bray.

As the kids become more web-savvy, parents naturally develop concerns about the amount of time that their children spend online and about the people and material they encounter in cyberspace.

“Obviously one of the disadvantages of this amazing information technology is that you don’t know who your children are talking to. You don’t know where or what sites they’re downloading and trying to keep some degree of control over your children is something that a lot of parents feel very strongly about,” said Bray. Parental control software has developed to help address those concerns. In fact, MSN parental control software has joined the ranks of Clairol Nice ‘N Easy, Kellogg’s breakfast cereals and Campbell’s soup in earning the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

Short attention span theater

Email is often billed as the “killer app” for the Internet. Many report their email use increases their communication with key family and friends and enhances their connection to them, but instant messaging or “IM” has attracted close to 13 million teenagers, according to the Pew study. “Talking to buddies online has become the information-age way for teens to hang out and beat back boredom.” Parents are also getting in on the act, with many claiming that it’s easier and more pleasant to type in “dinner’s ready” than it is to yell upstairs to the kids.

Similarly, as cell phones have become more pervasive, teenagers have been the first to embrace text messaging. According to an informal survey by researchers from Rutgers University, half of students with cell phone text-messaging capabilities have used them in class. It’s like passing notes, but harder to get busted.

In addition to altering how teens interact with their friends, technology is also introducing new dynamics into family life. Pew’s research found that in their overall judgment, parents think that the Internet’s role in their children’s lives beneficial. “More than half of parents of online youth believe the Net is generally a good thing for their children and only six percent believe it is bad for their children. Some 38 percent do not think it has had an effect on their child one way or the other.”

Connecting from college

As teenagers grow up and leave home, technology becomes even more critical in their communication with family. With time zone differences and late night hours kept by many college students, email is often the easiest way to reach mom and dad. In fact, the Pew survey found that Internet users in college are twice as likely to have online discussions compared to the overall online population.

Gran gets in the game

Technology has also made it easier to communicate with Grandma and Grandpa. “Even though many other online activities hold limited appeal to senior citizens, email has been completely embraced by Internet users over the age of 65,” found the Pew Survey. “Often encouraged by younger family members to start using email, wired seniors can be fervent message senders. In our surveys, their use of email has typically held steady or marginally surpassed the overall trend of all users.”

Tales from the grave

Reaching out to family through technology can also continue when the older generation is no longer around. For example, was originally developed as a memorial site for company owner Tosh Bulger’s Great Aunt Sevelta when she passed away. “We decided to make a website where people could go and leave stories,” he said. Researching genealogy has also become a favorite online pursuit.

The big picture

Most of the new technologies are reinforcing existing social values, rather than transforming them, according to Bray. “What they do do is they extend the range of social bonding and of geographic distance that can be counted within our networks of intimacy,” she said. “Perhaps what they’re doing is not so much revolutionizing the way we think about families and technology and domestic relations so much as reinforcing them.”

Universal translator

Lost in cyberspace? Here’s a quiz to see how up you are on online speak.

1. IMHO means

a. I’m at home

b. I’m a lady of the evening

c. In my humble opinion

2. GTG stands for

a. The sorority, Gamma Theta Gamma

b. Golly, that’s great

c. Got to go

3. B/F

a. Big friggin deal

b. Beer and fries

c. Boyfriend

4. ITA

a. Internet time of arrival

b. I’m a teaching assistant

c. I totally agree


a. Too tall for nerds

b. Talk to friends needlessly

c. Ta ta for now

The answers are all “c” IIRC (if I recall correctly).

FWIW (for what it’s worth) there are some great websites with smilies, acronyms and emoticons, including and

L8TR (later).

LOTA (lots of thundering applause).

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 9, 2004.

Carbajal and Buttny Rack up Community Support

The 1st and 3rd District Supervisor race is heating up, with several local groups announcing their endorsements. Ten organizations collectively announced their support last week for candidates Salud Carbajal and John Buttny in the supervisor races for 1st and 3rd districts, respectively.

“Salud Carbajal and John Buttny are committed to preserving the two treasures that make this county so wonderful: our environment and our people,” said Vernon Schabert, chair of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Central Committee, in voicing his organization’s support for the candidates.

“They are by far the best choices for working families,” said Mick Robinson of SEIU Local 620.

Also endorsing Carbajal and Buttny were representatives from the Santa Barbara County Action Network, Citizens for Goleta Valley, Democratic Women of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, SEIU Local 535, PUEBLO, Santa Barbara County League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.

Carbajal, currently an executive staff member for retiring 1st District Supervisor Naomi Schwartz, picked up her endorsement as well as that of 2nd and 3rd District Supervisors Susan Rose and Gail Marshall. Carbajal is also supported by Santa Barbara City and County Firefighters.

Earlier in the race, Economist John Gostovich, who is running against Carbajal in the 1st District, picked up endorsements from the Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the Santa Barbara County Farm Bureau and the Peace Officers Research Association of California.

Brooks Firestone, Buttny’s opponent in the 3rd District, has been endorsed by the County Firefighters Union and Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, as well as by 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray, 5th District Supervisor Joe Centeno, and ten former county supervisors. The other two candidates in that race are Rancher Slick Gardner and Businessman Steven Pappas, neither of which has announced any major endorsements.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 12, 2004.

Getting Creative With Cancer

Something magical happens when you tune your mind to its creative side. This was the lesson learned when eight local cancer survivors ventured into The Aphrodite Project. Now the rest of us can tune into that wake-up call, thanks to Santa Barbara filmmakers Jennifer A. Reinish‘s and Justin Thomas Rowe’s documentary, The Aphrodite Project, which premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival last week.

The project was the brainchild of social worker Jo-Anne Blatter, who has worked with people with life-changing illnesses for 27 years. She named the endeavor after the Greek goddess Aphrodite because both were meant to inspire growth, passion and wholeness, by pairing people with cancer (“creators”) with professional artists to create collaborative pieces of artwork.

“A cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence; it’s an order … to live every moment,” said Aaron, one of the creators, who worked with Visual Artist Jill Katz to create a collage out of his medical records and photos of his surgery scarred body.

“Getting close to someone that has the potential of dying on you is pretty heavy,” said Katz. Indeed, watching the growth of the bond between Katz and Aaron, like that of the others, was the icing on an already irresistible cake.

“The focus was not on outcome or product, but rather on the process; on the experience of playing with art and music as a means to heal, and to uncover the mysterious messages that life-changing events tend to urge us to search for,” said Blatter. Not only did the creators bond with their artistic collaborators, they also bonded with one another, a journey documented by the film.

“There was an immediate feeling of camaraderie. We knew what the other people had gone through without having to talk about it,” said Randi, who created “before” and “after” masks with paper mache artist Ginny Valdez. “I felt like I was reconstructing my life by tearing up pieces of paper (to create the mask).”

The film travels from the group’s first meeting in January 2003 to the sharing of their art at a showing in June. “The gallery opening was a really nice finale,” said Ann, who created and recorded a song with help of musicians Dan Zimmerman, Jay Ferguson and Sharon “Muffy” Hendrix Roach.

“I’m in the midst of looking for a home for the project,” said Blatter, who did not have any outside funding. “We’re going to see what the universe brings.”

For more information visit or call Blatter at 682.7313.

The Aphrodite Project will air on channel 17 tonight at 5 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. For additional show times visit

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on February 12, 2004.