TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a national soccer program created to train young people with disabilities in a caring coaching environment. The program is carried out by volunteers at the local level, with financial support from US Soccer and the program’s local youth soccer organization such as CYSA. Because only a handful or communities throughout Rhode Island offer TOPSoccer, we glady invite families from communities throughout Rhode Island to register for our program.TOPSoccer not only gives young athletes with disabilities an opportunity to play soccer, it also serves as a feeder program to recruit, assess and train players to participate in competitions offered by existing sports organizations for people with disabilities and mainstreams higher ability players on to regular youth soccer teams.
By providing a community-based training and team placement program for young people with disabilities, any boy or girl, age 5 to 18 who has a mental or physical disability will have the opportunity to learn and play soccer and become valued and successful members of CYSA and the US YOUTH SOCCER family.
TOPSoccer was designed not as a competitor to the programs run by other sports organizations for people with disabilities, but rather as a complementary program that works hand in hand with organizations like Special Olympics to expand the overall training and competition opportunities for young people with disabilities. TOPSoccer often works as a feeder program: recruiting, assessing, and training new soccer players who would benefit from opportunities sponsored by these sports organizations.
Many of the sports opportunities currently offered to young people with disabilities are school based. However, many parents of these young people would like their child to participate in the same community sports program as their non-disabled brothers and sisters – to wear the same club uniform, play at the same fields, go to the same awards banquets, and if appropriate, play on a non-disabled team. TOPSoccer can fill this need. TOPSoccer has also helped introduce the Unified Soccer Camp in many areas, a concept developed by Special Olympics. The Unified Soccer Camp brings together disabled and non-disabled soccer players in a positive and fun environment, hopefully breaking down social barriers through a common love of the game.
TOPSoccer consists of two vital components. The first is a field site where soccer players with disabilities can receive high-quality training to help develop their soccer skills. Training sessions could include activities such as scrimmages, small-sided games (3 v 3, 4 v 4) and tournaments. The second component is an ongoing player assessment process that places participants in the most appropriate playing situation, including placement on non-disabled, intramural and club teams, or involvement in programs established by other sports associations for people with disabilities (i.e., Special Olympics).
Benefits for Participants
- SOCIAL SKILLS – Players interact with their volunteer Buddy and other athletes in a fun, group setting and learn proper social behaviors.
- TEAMWORK – Players learn to trust someone else and rely on them through soccer activities and games.
- PERSEVERANCE – Players might encounter difficulties with activities, but they will be encouraged to keep trying and overcome challenges.
- CONFIDENCE – Players will achieve success on the field that carries over to their lives off the field in so many ways!
Differentiators of TOPSoccer
- Buddies: Each participant is assigned a volunteer, trained ‘Buddy’ who is typically a little older and neurotypical. This Buddy works with their player individually and makes sure they are safe, engaged, supported, and having fun. The player-Buddy relationship is maintained throughout the course of a season, resulting in strong interpersonal bonds and an establishment of trust and confidence that allows each player to achieve their full potential.
- Coaches: TOPSoccer coaches and administrators have taken formal USYS education and certification training that assists them in successfully delivering the program. In addition to providing coaching strategies and tactics specifically for children with special needs, the training identifies the traits of the most common disabilities and provides guidance on how to modify typical soccer practice activities so everyone can be successful.
- Groupings: Players are grouped by ability, not just age, such that they can develop at their own pace and participate amongst others with similar abilities.
There is no cost for participants in CYSA’s TOPSoccer program.
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