Every spring and fall, youth soccer players of a variety of ages — and abilities — run around the local fields to have fun and develop their skills.
This is made possible through the efforts of many paid and unpaid people and, for the past decade plus, Torrie Laros has been one of those dedicated volunteers. Laros, who served as president of the Newtown Soccer Club for the past half dozen of her 11 years helping out, stepped down this past fall. John Premus has taken over as president of the club.
For her efforts, Laros has earned the Newtown Bee’s Harmon Award For Sportsman of the Year, named in honor of former Bee Sports Editor Kim Harmon.
Prior to her commitment as president, she held numerous other leadership positions with club, coached, and served as a referee, since her high school aged boys started in the under 4 years old (U4) recreational program.
“I wanted to give back what I got out of playing soccer,” said Laros, adding that the fun and enjoyment of a team atmosphere are what she most appreciated about being involved in the game.
The Andover, Mass., native began playing soccer at the age of 9. She went to play at Southern New Hampshire University on a scholarship, earning All-America status in her junior and senior years. Upon moving to Connecticut for an accounting position (she now works as a tax consultant), Laros had two children — Zachary and Jacob — with her husband David.
That was her introduction to significant involvement in soccer off the playing surface, but still on the field.
Laros started the town’s U4 soccer program and coached Zachary, and later Jacob. She went on to become vice president of the recreational program before eventually taking on her role at the top.
“I love soccer — just being around it and getting as many kids out there and seeing smiles on their faces,” Laros said.
And she’s not exactly saying goodbye to Newtown soccer.
“I’m not leaving completely,” said Laros, who has been a referee for a couple of years and will continue involvement in that capacity. Laros plans to get more officiating experience and step up to the travel and premier levels. Referees, who are paid, are not permitted to officiate at the higher levels if their own children are involved in those tiers.
Both of her children have played premier soccer in the Connecticut Football Club, sponsored by the Newtown Soccer Club.
Zachary, 15, is a goalkeeper at Danbury’s Immaculate High School, and Jacob, 12, plays for Newtown’s Connecticut Football Club team.
Among her duties throughout the years were to attend monthly meetings, engage in day to day contact with parents and coaches, organize players and teams, and recruit volunteer parents for the recreation level teams. Laros organized practice times and travel team tryouts, and worked directly with Newtown Parks and Recreation officials when necessary.
“Torrie has always been a true pleasure to work with. She always had the best intentions for all the sports groups in the community and worked well with everyone,” Newtown Parks & Recreation Director Amy Mangold said. “Torrie always had a great ability to problem solve and come up with creative solutions. She is helpful, kind and patient, and had the ability to be a strong leader and a fantastic role model. Torrie treated all levels of players with fairness and respect. Parks & Recreation never faced any problems or complaints from parents, coaches, or players about fairness of field time or team selections and we attribute that to Torrie’s strong and fair leadership abilities.”
Laros felt the same way about working with the town as they did about interacting with her.
“The town’s great. They really do go above and beyond, working on the fields if we need anything,” Laros said.
She helped run events, including the Memorial Day Weekend Tournament, and designated soccer nights. Among her favorite aspects of this work throughout the years: “Just going around to the various fields and seeing how much fun the kids were having,” Laros said.
She added that her best memories are of seeing everybody together, picnicking after the Memorial Day Weekend Tournament. “That was an enjoyable part of it,” she said.
Under her tutelage, the program has grown and now features special needs teams, and high school-level players now have a competitive out-of-season league to stay sharp. Laros worked with the high school coaches to arrange to have the training the travel players experienced mirror that of the high school competitors.
Newtown’s youth soccer teams had been competing in the Northwest District, but now take the fields against more competitive teams in the South West District.
The goal, Laros said, was to create as competitive a program in town as possible for the betterment of the high school program and development of the young players. “You don’t have parents traveling all over the state. We have a competitive program in Newtown,” she notes.
There are about 1,200 children in the town’s recreational and travel programs.
“Torrie has been nothing but an open and inviting president,” said Tony Filiato, the longest-serving member of the soccer club’s Board of Directors (since 2008), who has also worked with Laros as a soccer parent, coach, and officer.
“My involvement with the club, which Torrie has strongly facilitated almost from the day our family moved into town, has been quite rewarding and played a large role in my decision to become even further immersed in the town and its residents outside the aegis of soccer by serving on the Legislative Council,” Filiato said.
His three children, Caitlin, now a junior at the high school; Tristan, an eighth grader; and Becca, a fifth grader, played soccer in the club. Filiato started coaching in the recreational side of the club when his family came to Newtown in 2005.
He’s one of the many helpful individuals to whom Laros shows appreciation for helping make her unpaid work that much smoother.
“I want to thank the volunteers over the years who have given up time with family to make the program what it is today,” Laros said.