1. The first thing is for your club or league to decide whether it wants to get involved in TOPSoccer. Make no mistake; it will be a big commitment and a lot of work. But there is a need in your community, and your club or league can help fill it. It will be important to have grass roots support before you begin.
2. Why your club or league should consider getting involved in a soccer program for kids with disabilities:
- Soccer is a great sport for these athletes. They love it and it provides terrific opportunities for their physical, social, and psychological growth.
- By contributing your passion and knowledge of the sport, your club or league can make your community a better place.
- There is no more satisfying endeavor than working with these fine young people.
- TOPSoccer is a program for all athletes with disabilities, mental and physical. It serves all children 4 to 19, not just special groups.
3. Your club may decide right off the bat that it wants to get involved or it may want more information before it makes a commitment. In either case, the next step is to form a committee to explore what programs may or may not exist in your community. The committee will report back on what programs currently exist and will present alternatives for the club’s involvement in a TOPSoccer program
- The committee should start with the schools that have special education programs (ask them for leads to organizations which provide programs for kids with disabilities).
- It should then check with other groups that provide athletic programs for these athletes such as the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Special Olympics.
4. There are two primary scenarios; there are current soccer programs for these kids in your community or there aren’t.
- If there are current programs, great. The committee should talk to the people running the programs to see how your coaches and volunteers (including players) can help them. It should talk about whether the soccer elements of their programs can and should be expanded and whether their programs include all kids with disabilities, not just certain ones; we want the soccer experience to be available to every kid. It should ask them what help they need and let them know what you may be able to provide -- coaches, players who want to volunteer to help, equipment, facilities. Please note that these are not automatics; your regular size 5 soccer balls may be too big and too hard, your fields may not be handicapped accessible, etc.
- If there are no current programs in your community, start one! It is strongly recommended that the club think small in the beginning. If there is a community to be served, opportunities to expand the program will become apparent. Equally as important, the club’s level of experience will grow, giving whatever direction the club goes in a much better chance of success. Think "out of the box." You will not be superimposing your current coaching experience on these athletes. Rather, you will be developing new and unique programs to fit the needs of the athletes. Challenging, yes; satisfying, you bet!
5. Financial assistance
- The program will cost money. At a minimum, you will need equipment and uniforms. You might also have other expenses such as copying and printing, facility use charges, etc.
- There are various ways these costs can be met. For example, your club can decide it can afford to cover the costs. Parents of the athletes are usually prepared to defray costs. You can solicit local service clubs to underwrite your program. Some organizations may donate facilities and equipment they normally charge for.
- VYSA also offers financial assistance to help programs get started. Use the US Youth Soccer grant application form to submit requests for a VYSA grant and mail or email it to VYSA, 5450 Southpoint Plaza Way, Fredericksburg, VA 22407, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Books and Manuals
- US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Manual. A good resource for starting and running a program. Lots of good ideas and suggestions, including sample forms. Available from the VYSA office.
- TOPSoccer Coaching Manual. This excellent manual is still under development. As its name says, it is aimed at the soccer coach who would work with athletes with disabilities. We’ll let you know when it will be available and how to get it.
- Special Olympics Soccer, Sports Skills Program. This book is written for leaders of Special Olympics soccer programs, that is, programs for athletes with mental retardation. However, it contains many excellent suggestions for what and how to teach soccer to athletes with a variety and disabilities.