TOPSoccer a National Organization That Is Making a Difference
US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer)
In an effort to keep our readers informed, we at PSN would like to shine the light on an organization that truly cares about those in the special needs community.
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, ages 4-19, 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.
PSN received the following statement from Dean Frost, Chairperson of Florida Youth Soccer:
I first became involved with TOPSoccer back in 2000 when a group of volunteers met to organize a TOP’s program for the Soccer Association of Boca Raton (SABR). We felt there was a need but had no idea how successful the program would become. The wonderful group of 100 + young athletes in the SABR TOPSoccer program are matched only by the group of “outstanding volunteers” who make the program what it is today. SABR is a club where the volunteers almost out number the athletes… but that’s good. In 2002 Florida Youth Soccer ask me to take on more responsibility and I accepted the Chairperson’s position for the State of Florida. I have been coaching young athletes for 43 years and I can tell you that the TOPSoccer Program is the most rewarding program I have ever been involved with. These young athletes are so appreciative and have such a wonderful time each time they come out. Not only that, but, it is the answer to prayer for many of the parents who have been looking for a program where their special needs child can just “be a kid”. There are lasting friendships that develop between the athletes as well as the parents. A Mom once said to me, ” I can’t think of a better way to spend Sunday afternoon than to be at the Soccer Field watching my daughter play soccer and having such a wonderful time”. The attached write up will give you insight into how much the program meant to one member of the SABR TOPSoccer program.
You might be interested to know that Soccer is the world’s most popular team sport and among young people it’s the fastest growing activity in the United States. We are also learning that among a special group of young athletes that it is making a major difference in their quality of life. This is a group of young men and women who have special needs. TOPSoccer is providing these young athletes the opportunity to participate and enjoy the game of soccer. Modifications are made to the game to allow full participation and enjoyment to each young athlete. The Goal of TOPSoccer is to provide a recreational, leisure approach to the game of soccer for this very special group. We want to enable these young athletes with disabilities to become valued and successful members of their local Soccer Association families. Including these young men and women in the game of soccer is a great process because it helps them develop life skills. The goal is to see these young athletes participate and grow in their accomplishments and have fun while they do it! The outstanding group of volunteers, Coaches and Soccer Buddies who give their time to the program are the key to the success that clubs in Florida are experiencing. Until recently there was only a hand full of clubs who had successful TOP’s programs. That is changing as several clubs in the State of Florida have recently started or they are starting up programs.
How do you participate? Contact your local US Youth Soccer State Association (www.usyouthsoccer.org) office to find out more about getting involved with a local US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program. Or, simply contact your respective US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Committee member by using the e-mail addresses listed on the site.
Kerry Ann Ryan
January 24, 1971 ~ August 21, 2006
Kerry joined the SABR TOPSoccer program in the 2001 – 2002 season. She came to SABR as a result of her friend Greg Turner who had a son playing in the SABR Rec. Program. Greg had introduced her to the program and he still recalls her excitement the day he told her that her application had been submitted to the SABR TOPSoccer program. The day Greg delivered her 1st uniform and Jersey with her name on it she immediately put on the uniform and shared her good news with the entire neighborhood.
She was SABR’s first player confined to a wheel chair. Dean Frost, the then TOPSoccer Program Director requested Kerry be assigned to his team.
Kerry had spent all of her life in her wheel chair and this was her first opportunity to play an organized sport. She LOVED the game of Soccer and she loved her many friends, both TOP’s athletes, Coaches and Soccer Buddy’s. She was really proud of her TOPSoccer friends and she told everyone she came in contact with about all her friends and her soccer skills.
Kerry had to undergo 29 surgeries in her first 32 years of life. She was in the hospital on two different occasions while a member of the TOP’s program. Dean recalls visiting her at the Boca Raton Community Hospital where he was introduced to all of her nurses and Dr.’s as “her soccer coach”. She would immediately encourage Coach Dean to tell the individual(s) about her soccer skills. Everyone on her hospital floor got to know Kerry and the patients, nurses and Dr.’s loved her. Kerry was in pain most of her waking life but you would have never known it. She had a beautiful smile that immediately caught your attention. When Dean walked into her room she would immediately tell him to pull up a chair. Kerry loved to talk about soccer and her many friends at TOP’s. It was always difficult for Dean to leave because Kerry would encourage him to stay even when the nurses were trying to get her to rest.
Kerry passed away in August 2006 and never had a chance to be a part of the 2006 – 2007 TOP’s season. She is missed by her many friends at TOP’s. On Saturday, March 3, 2007 at the close of the SABR TOPSoccer season Kerry’s jersey was officially “retired”. The baby blue jersey was signed by all of the TOP’s players, coaches, buddies and friends as a special tribute to “our” very special soccer player and FRIEND. A plaque was added to the framed jersey that reads “A person can have no better epitaph than that which is inscribed in the hearts of her friends”. Author unknown.
A big THANK YOU to Courtney Baines from Space Coast United Soccer Club, TOPSoccer league for supplying images. Dean Frost from SABR TOPSoccer program for his contributions. We would also like to thank Joe Duffey for making us aware of this wonderful program.
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