PAYSA’s beginnings were very modest. The club started as a weeklong clinic during spring break in 1982 for children who lived on the West End. The first program had two age groups with four teams for each group, and it was called the West End Soccer League. The club was founded on the principles of skills development and enjoyment of play. To that end, the league formed balanced teams and kept no standings or statistics. These early values remain at the core of PAYSA’s mission today.
Games were played initially at the athletic fields on the campus of Waynflete School. After several years, the club received funds to renovate the field next to Reiche Elementary School, and games and practices moved there.
Not long after, it was clear the program should be expanded city-wide and the West End Soccer League became Portland Area Youth Soccer Association (PAYSA). The basic principles of short-sided play, skills development, and a noncompetitive environment remained the bedrock of the program as it expanded.
While PAYSA was originally comprised of co-ed teams, far fewer girls than boys participated. To expand participation of girls, PAYSA moved to single-sex teams. In just a year or two, the number of girls playing increased significantly.
When the first group of PAYSA girls went through middle school on to high school, their only option was to play on the boys’ junior varsity teams. PAYSA worked to create girls’ junior varsity and varsity soccer programs at Deering and Portland high schools. Both programs have grown and flourished.
PAYSA was a leader in pushing the developmental approach to youth soccer in Maine. While many town clubs played full 11 vs. 11 games at younger ages, PAYSA played short-sided soccer. This approach was eventually adopted statewide after Soccer Maine, the state governing body for the sport, hired its first state coach and reinforced the concept. PAYSA also pushed participation and skills development over competitive play. The concept was eventually adopted by Soccer Maine for U10 and U11 programs statewide.
Today, PAYSA teams can be seen throughout the city in late summer and deep into the fall. Weeknight practices are held on the campuses of neighborhood schools and in several of the city’s parks. Recreation league games are held at Doherty Field, and older travel teams play at home games at Deering High’s Memorial Field. PAYSA remains committed to the values it was founded on: skills development through short-sided play in a noncompetitive environment.