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Meetings to decide league's fate

(ran East, South, West editions)

At least two more are scheduled to discuss who will run a popular indoor soccer league for kids.

Another pair of meetings have been scheduled for later this month to discuss the future of the popular Everyone's a Winner indoor soccer league.

At issue is whether to cede control of the league to a board of parents or to the St. Petersburg YMCA, which is eager to take it over. Either way, Les Ambush, the one-man-band who has run the league for 15 years, is retiring at the end of this season.

The meetings are set for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 19 and 20 at the Gladden Park community center.

"I guess what we really need to do is decide whether we want to go with the Y or whether we want to do it ourselves," said Leyla Tremaine, one of the soccer parents who is helping plot the future of the league.

In recent weeks, Ambush invited parents to organizational meetings to help decide the future of the league. Ambush, who devotes about 30 hours each weekend to running the league, announced in July that he planned to step down after this season.

The decision was a difficult one, Ambush said. Health problems and the increasing popularity of the league, which serves about 600 children, prompted him to examine his role.

"It's a lot of work," said Ambush, who does everything from signing up players to putting up the backboards to running the games. "I'm basically kind of tired out."

The league, which serves children ages 3 to 12, has 800 slots in two summer sessions. Some children play both sessions. All games are played in the air-conditioned gym at Gladden Park.

Tremaine said that the more parents discuss what goes into running the league, the more it becomes apparent how difficult it would be for one person or even a few to run the league.

"The man lives at the gym," she said of Ambush.

One of the concerns about turning the league over to the YMCA is that it might lose the nurturing quality of instruction that had made it such a favorite with parents and players.

Ambush is known for his propensity to stop games and roll the ball to a flagging child, and for giving all players Popsicles after games.

Doug Linder, president and chief executive officer of the St. Petersburg YMCA, said the organization realizes the special quality of the league and would work to preserve it.

"We would love to be able to work with these kids and hopefully have some influence in their lives," Linder said. "It's something the Y does very well."