This past May Darryl Spencer was named male Referee of the Year by the Washington State Youth Soccer Association. He went on to represent the state at the Far West Regional Championships in Boise in June.
'It's a family thing,' says his mom, Cynthia, of the passion she and Darryl share for the game. Both of them referee almost every weekend ' sometimes at more than one game ' and Cynthia is the current board secretary of the Washington State Youth Soccer Association.
Darryl will be a sophomore at Western Washington University this fall. I spoke to him while he was at the week-long Olympic Development Camp for boys in Oregon. Young players of national caliber go there to compete for the possibility of being on the U.S. National Soccer Team, and the regional soccer organization brings in experienced national and international referees to mentor the refs. This is his third year there.
Darryl began refereeing when he was 11.
'I was small,' he remembers, 'and sometimes it was intimidating.' Then in high school it became a part-time job.
'I would play on Saturday and ref on Sunday,' he says. Now he has given up competitive soccer, he still plays for fun at college, where he enjoys Ultimate Frisbee as well.
He recently became involved with Chabad there, which is new at Western this year. He's been asked to be on the board and will help organize events and recruit students to come to them.
A graduate of the International School in Bellevue, Darryl and his younger brother, Scott, became B'nei Mitzvah at the Eastside Torah Center.
As for the rest of the summer, Darryl will be getting his certification to referee college games and then he'll spend the rest of the weeks before school starts, 'mostly doing tournaments ' almost one every weekend,' all around Washington State, he says. In the future he hopes to be selected as one of the 12 refs from our region to officiate at the national youth championships.
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We found our intrepid Latin American travelers, John Rothschild and Steve Katz, in Nicaragua this spring.
Unlike their trip to Cuba, chronicled here in 2004, this trip had no Jewish component.
The Jewish community in Nicaragua is 'nothing to speak of, not like in Cuba,' says John. Steve thinks it's comprised of fewer than 100 people. Yet many buildings are decorated with Stars of David, which Nicaraguans feel brings luck.
Wherever they went, though, John says he met Jewish travelers.
'I think a lot of Jews travel, especially from [North] America, probably at a higher rate than the general population,' he says.
How does he ferret out these people, aside from having 'Jew-dar?'
'You're sitting in a restaurant, you talk to other travelers,' John explains, saying that meeting and exchanging information is one of the pleasures of travel.
They discovered a local connection on the island of Ometepe, sister-island to Bainbridge. Organic coffee grown by farmers on Ometepe is bought by the Bainbridge organization, then roasted and sold by the Pegasus Coffee Company. Profits fund community welfare projects back on Ometepe, like wells and schools.
Despite this, 'we had a hard time getting a good cup of coffee,' John laughs. 'Most Nicaraguans drink instant coffee. It's horrible.'
Steve hopes to take his family there one day.
'It's very safe and much cleaner than I would have anticipated,' he states.
He found Nicaraguans to be politically aware and involved, 'much like Israel.
'The people understand how politics affects their lives'and participate.'
Steve's highlight was Nicaragua's youngest volcano, Cerro Negro.
'You hike into the caldera and see the stuff spewing and foaming,' he says. 'Then you hike to the edge and 'ski' down the ash.'
Steve and his guide used their feet, but Steve says there were European tourists with snowboards who had spent the day hiking up and boarding down.