ARTICLE: My Story - My son's first day on a TOPSoccer team
US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by youth soccer association volunteers. The program is designed to bring the opportunity of learning and playing soccer to any boy or girl, who has a mental or physical disability. Our goal is to enable the thousands of young athletes with disabilities to become valued and successful members of the US Youth Soccer family.
TOPSoccer was formed to perpetuate the US Youth Soccer mission statement which is, in part, "to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America's youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition." There are thousands of children with disabilities who need, and can be provided with, the opportunity to play soccer through the TOPSoccer program.For programs near you or help with starting a program, contact Jessica Chambers.
- Identify the need in your area. For what type of disabilities do you need to plan? Are you able to fulfill these needs?
- Check for any restrictions placed on the facility (ies) you plan to use. Are they equipped to handle athletes with physical disabilities?
- Check with your soccer insurance carrier.
- Contact established programs for information. (US Youth Soccer, Special Olympics, United Cerebral Pals, Shriners)
- Contact your local school districts and universities.
- Create a list of people who are able to assist you.
- Plan your advertisements.
- The unique thing about TOPSoccer is that each program is different and is created around the needs of the participants. Additionally, TOPSoccer athletes are placed on teams according to ability, not age.
- Length of program is determined by organizer. Usually programs are 6-8 weeks in length.
- Playing rules: Create rules to fit specific needs and use the US Youth Soccer Under-6, Under-8 or Under-10 guidelines
- TOPSoccer programs can have very modest beginnings.
- For those athletes not able to participate due to medical reasons, design a skills program that is rewarding, challenging and fun.
- Variety of choices: Small-sided games (3 v 3, 4 v 4, 8 v 8, etc.), full-sided games (11v11), unified teams (ratio of challenged athletes to non-challenged athletes), indoor programs outdoor program, camp, skills only
- Above all... keep it simple... KEEP IT FUN!
- Registration procedures should be the same as those used for regular league teams: should include a section for medical history. Athletes with Down-syndrome should be required to have a current x-ray. If the x-ray is positive for their safety, it should be strongly recommended that they do not take part in team play, and in some cases medical waivers may be required.
- Placement is made by ability not age.
- Assessment test should be made available upon request.
- Ensure that the experience is meaningful for the participating athletes, and one in which they feel they have made a contribution.
Contact local universities, schools and soccer clubs for volunteers. The State Coach or Director of Coaching for the state association is also a good source for coaches. No special training is required, however it is available through US Youth Soccer and state association sponsored coaching courses as well as through Special Olympics.
- Costs are $5.00 per player and coach/buddy for insurance fees. Uniform and equipment costs will vary.
- Cost should be kept low and affordable to all possible participants.
- Grants are available through Ohio North and US Youth Soccer.
- There are philanthropic entities, such as the Shriners which offer assistance. Research others in the local community (Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, etc.).
- Approach local companies or corporations for cash or in-kind donations.
- Use color coded goals or nets (e.g., red goals/yellow nets).
- Have scrimmage vests available.
- Have a ball for each athlete.
- HAVE FUN!