By Karen Billing
Solana Beach Soccer Club held its annual meeting on Feb. 12, honoring four young recipients of the Peter Schmid Award, an award that recognizes standout players for their sportsmanship and attitude. This year’s recipients included Alexandra “Alex” Worms, Hannah Wagner, Francesca “Franny” Oldham and Aafje Day.
Additionally, the club honored outgoing president and long-serving board member Scott Billington.
“The board is incredibly well run and Scott’s worked diligently to keep things running smoothly,” said new president Jeff Lyle. “He set a tone that will keep the club going successfully for a long time.”
Lyle said Billington hasn’t had kids in the league for a while but still volunteered an “incredible” amount of time. Billington is also an airline pilot, real estate broker and longtime volunteer for the Solana Beach School District, organizing the Solana Beach Foundation for Learning’s Solana Beach Ball fundraiser for the last two years
“Being a part of the organization has been tremendously fun,” Billington said, noting his favorite part is seeing the kids in their fresh new uniforms on their first day. “We’ve got a great community and thankfully they like to be a part of this club.”
The Peter Schmid Award is about more than just being a good soccer player. While the under-8 player Alex Worms didn’t lead the team in goals scored, she was “the glue that bonded the team whether in the form of on-field encouragement or sideline cheerleading,” said coach Erick Co.
Co said her confidence was magnetic and contagious and her personality invigorated and motivated the team. The best example of her influence was when she got sick midseason and missed a couple of practices and games.
“At halftime in one of the missed games we were trailing by several goals and I specifically remember Samantha, one of our top scorers, stating dejectedly, ‘We’re not going to win because Alex isn’t here,’ and several others nodding in agreement,” said Co.
Co said that he can’t help but wonder what a great kid like Alex will accomplish in life.
“She is one of those uncommon individuals that I can envision with the potential to make a difference,” Co said.
Under-14 girls coach Chris Costello nominated Hannah Wagner for the award after what she went through during the season with her brother Jackson’s lymphoma diagnosis. He said Jackson’s illness, of course, affected his entire family and he would’ve understood if Hannah wanted to put soccer on hold for the season.
“Hannah instead choose to play and even elevated her level of play. She sometimes played entire games without a sub. She’d always been a great goal scorer but really turned it up this year,” Costello said. “She provided a really inspiring example of sportsmanship and perseverance when you saw she was going through a hard situation and was still able to show up and play even better.”
New president Lyle has coached both award winners Aafje and “Franny” on his under-16 team for the last two years.
Talking about Aafje, he said she always made him smile, had a great attitude and called her a “real sweetheart” who shows compassion to her teammates and even opponents.
“She likes to play defense, which is a huge plus because nobody else wants to, they all want to play forward. She’s really good at defense, really talented,” Lyle said.
Lyle said players like Aafje make coming to practice really fun and she was always offering to help without being asked.
Regarding Franny, Lyle said she has only one speed and that’s 100 percent. Last year, he asked Franny to play a hybrid position of center midfield and part stopper, which basically meant her job was to “run all over the field.”
“She took on the role and played until her face was bright red and then kept going,” Lyle said. “She just goes 100 miles an hour and when her teammates saw how hard she was playing, it just really got everyone going.”
He called Franny the “unsung hero” of the team and one of the reasons why it is so fun to coach.