Sports can be an integral part of the life of a special needs child. It fosters personal growth, exercise, builds confidence, and builds interpersonal and communication skills. Soccer is one sport that can help provide these building blocks. US Youth Soccer offers the TOPSoccer program, which is an outreach, community-based program for young boy and girl athletes with mental or physical disabilities. The disabilities include Autism, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, sight or hearing impaired, and traumatic brain injury. Players are placed according to ability, not by age. Player development is the goal of this program rather than competition. According to the 2010 US Census Bureau report, there are approximately 56.7 million people in the United States with some form of disability, school-aged children aged 5 to 17 make up 2.8 million.
US Youth Soccer is the largest member of the United States Soccer Federation. US Youth Soccer is comprised of over 600,000 volunteers and administrators, and most of its 300,000+ coaches are volunteers. The organization spans across America making up 55 member State Associations; one in each state, and two in California, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. TOPSoccer programs are already in place in some US cities. Contact your local US Youth Soccer State Association office to get involved. If the TOPSoccer program does not exist in your community and there is a need, a program can be created.
What did US Youth Soccer have to say about why America needs the TOPSoccer program?
“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.”
Visit the US Youth Soccer website for more information about the TOPSoccer program, to find a local association, or for info to bring the program to your hometown.