AYSO encourages biking to soccer, refilling water bottles

The Davis Enterprise: September 11, 2009

Davis Bicycles! column #26
Author: Kelly Safford

photo caption:
U-16 soccer players practice Tuesday in Community Park, as their bikes lay waiting for the ride home. Many soccer players are biking to practice and games thanks to a sustainability program promoted by Davis AYSO, which also encourages the use of refillable drink bottles and snacks without wrappers to reduce AYSOs carbon footprint.

Soccer is central to the Davis experience. Every fall more than 2000 kids learn teamwork and physical skills, and get a great dose of exercise. The season brings families and friends together on the field and on our roads. Traffic congestion, wasted petroleum, and unnecessary pollution result when too many people use automobiles to reach the pitch. Many Davisites walk or ride their bikes to AYSO events, but those still driving are disconcerting given rising temperatures linked to greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce our organizations impact on the plant, Davis AYSO developed a sustainability policy.

In the fall of 2006, Steve Brown, Kevin Klein and Joe Krovoza started Bike to AYSO. To support this, AYSO composed teams based partly on players home locations relative to a central practice site. AYSO funded Susan Handys UC Davis research team to crunch the numbers. That year, almost 60 percent of AYSO players reported usually biking to practice, but less than 25 percent of players were walking or biking to weekend matches. Those who biked tended to come from biking families, and tended to live close to the games field. Although the riding to game numbers seem low, less than one percent of all intra-urban trips are made by bicycle. The results reinforced our determination to continue and to improve the initiative.

Last fall, Davis AYSO began to reduce our carbon footprint still further. Our new Bike and Bottle Campaign is now in year two. Reducing the waste soccer generates became an added emphasis. Fleet Feet, Freewheeler and Kens Bike & Ski provided players with a reusable water bottle. Each teams Green Coordinator encourages players to ride, create bike-pools and car-pools, and also works with snack parents to encourages waste-free at-game snacks like fruit, home-made baked goods, and other no-wrapper munchies. It is exciting to see how many 2008 bottles are still hard at work in 2009!

Coordinators also visit practices and games to help increase participation and tally the number of players biking and using the reusable bottles. Last year, the greenest teams got prizes from Alphabet Moon, Baskin Robbins, Ben and Jerrys, Habit Burger, Nugget, Starbucks, Yogurt Shack and 49er Video.

Our campaigns have been a success. There is less trash to clean from the fields. Unofficial polling suggests that car-pooling to away games has also increased. We dont know yet whether bike ridership is up over 2006, but there is reason to be very optimistic. Parents and players have welcomed our message.

The benefits to AYSO have gone beyond sustainability. Sarah Mungas who has no kids in soccer shared her enjoyment at seeing young players in her neighborhood congregate for a bike-pool while waiting for a parent to bike with them. And Sarah added, They were excited to show me their new water bottles!

AYSO coach and referee Ron Unger also sees more than environmental benefits. You see more friends, parents and players talking and laughing when they bike together. People are recognizing how beneficial biking is to their families and their own well-being.”

It can be hard to modify habits. But through awareness, group activity, and the leadership of coaches, parents and volunteers, we are succeeding. Once someone tries the biking lifestyle, they see how easy it is to leave the automobile in the driveway. There isnt a simpler and safer place in the country to hop on a bike. The environment benefits and demand for petroleum drop. Players get the added benefit of arriving already warmed up. Probably the most important impact is with younger children. They become quite conscious of the biking and waste reduction options, and their parents are more likely to support it.

Its AYSOs view that even though our city is a national leader in sustainable living, we can do better. Coach Stan Dean puts it this way, Davis AYSO shows that its program is more than just playing soccer, we are a local leader in encouraging kids and families to think responsibly.

Encouraging sustainability in soccer activities as been so positive for AYSO. We invite other groups to learn from our experience. Thank you to the players, coaches, Green Coordinators and parents who have contributed to the environmental ethic of Davis AYSO!

— Kelly Safford is the Sustainability Coordinator for Davis AYSO. Her boys play soccer, and the whole family rides bikes to soccer games and practices. Send any questions or information to sustainability@davisayso.net.

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