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TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a community-based training and team placement for young athletes with disabilities, organized by Mississippi Youth Soccer Association Volunteers. The program is designed to bring the opportunity of learning and playing soccer to any boy or girl, AGE 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 Mississippi Soccer Association/US YOUTH SOCCER family.
Why do we need a 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 TOPSoccer program.
TOPSoccer was formed in 1992 when the Special Olympic Organization requested the assistance from the United States Youth Soccer Association on developing a soccer program for disabled children throughout the United States.
Even with a strong history of providing disabled children the opportunity to participate in sporting events, the Special Olympic Organization felt that US Soccer could promote TOPSoccer in a more adequate fashion.
As of to date, there are TOPSoccer Programs in the majority of the United States. However, our goal is to have a TOPSoccer Program in EVERY State.
Step #1: Identify
the need in your area.
a. For what type of disabilities do you need to plan?
b. Are you able to fulfill these needs?
Step #2: Find a location to play (i.e., indoor facility or outdoor field)
a. Check for any restrictions placed on the facility(ies) you plan to use.
b. Are they equipped to handle athletes with physical disabilities?
Step #3: Check with your soccer insurance carrier.
a. Is there an extra cost to cover athletes with disabilities?
b. Are there special waivers to sign?
Step #4 Contact an established organization for help and explain what your goals and intentions are.
Helpful Hint: US YOUTH SOCCER, Special Olympics, March of Dimes, United Cerebral Palsy and the Shriners are Organizations that may provide the help you are looking for.
Step #5: Contact local school districts and universities for Volunteers.
a. These institutions can be a great source for athletes and volunteers.
Step #6: Create a list of people who are able to assist you.
Step #7: Plan your advertisement(s).
a. For athletes
b. For parents
Step #8: Get the support of your State Association and Regional TOPSoccer Representative, and use them as resources for additional assistance on how to develop your program.
Once you’ve made contact with an organization and it’s been agreed upon that TOPSoccer will be a benefit to their organization, work with their administrator for players, ideas and suggestions on how to improve the program for all parties involved.
Note: Our TOPSoccer Players can play soccer all year long, however the Special Olympic players can only play for one month.
Please make sure to contact your County Government Agency. They are a key organization who may provide additional help when developing your TOPSoccer Program.
It only takes one person at a site to start a TOPSoccer Program, and the volunteers will come forward … the parents of players … the brothers of players … the sisters of players … the list is never ending. In addition, make sure to talk to your State Soccer Association. They will also provide volunteers as well as shirts, balls, and other soccer equipment that will make your TOPSoccer Program a success.
… Just think of the benefit you will have by providing the young athletes with disabilities in your state the opportunity to play soccer.
TOPSoccer CoordinatorReturn to Top of Page
I. Who Is an Individual With a Disability? The Three Prongs of the Definition.
A. A person with a disability (a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities).
1. Physical or mental impairment.
2. Examples of major life activities: caring for himself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working
3. Substantially limits: unable to perform major life activity, or significantly restricted as to the condition, manner, or duration under which major life activity can be performed, in comparison to the average person/most people.
II. Must be assessed without regard to mitigating measures (prosthetics, assistive devices, medications, etc.)
B. A person with a record of a disability.
C A person who is regarded as having a disability.
III. Someone who has a physical or mental impairment that does not substantially limit major life activities but who is treated as if the impairment does constitute such a limitation.
IV. Someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities only as a result of the attitudes of others toward such impairment.
V. Someone who has no impairment but who is treated as if they have a substantially limiting impairment.
1. Registration procedures should be the same as those used for regular league teams.
a. Registration form should include a section for medical history.
b. 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.
c. In some cases medical waivers may be required.
2. Placement is made by ability, not age.
a. Assessment tests should be made available upon request.
b. Ensure that the experience is meaningful for the participating athletes, and one in which they feel they have made a contribution.
1. The unique thing about TOPSoccer is that each is different and is created around the needs of the participants. Additionally, TOP Soccer athletes are placed on teams according to ability, not age.
2. Variety of choices: Small-sided games (3v3,4v4,8v8, etc.), Full-sided games (11v11), Unified teams (ratio of challenged athletes to non-challenged athletes), Outdoor program/Indoor program, Camps, Skills only.
3. Length of program is determined by organizer.
4. Playing rules - Create rules to fit specific needs or use the US YOUTH SOCCER Under 6, Under 8, Under 10 rules.
5. TOPSoccer programs can have very modest beginnings.
6. For those athletes not able to participate due to medical reasons, design a skills program that is rewarding, challenging and fun.
7. Above all…keep it simple…KEEP IT FUN!
1. 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 is available.
a. Through US YOUTH SOCCER and state association sponsored coaching courses.
b. Through Special Olympics.
1. Costs vary depending upon your registration fees and insurance fees, and uniform and equipment costs.
2. Costs should be kept low and affordable to all possible participants.
3. Grants are available though US YOUTH SOCCER.
4. There are philanthropic entities, such as the Shriners, which offer assistance. Research others in the local community (Lions Club, Rotary Clubs, etc.)
5. Approach local companies or corporations for cash or in-kind donations.
6. Mississippi Soccer Association has limited Grant Money available for Startup Programs.
1. Use colored coded goals or nets (e.g., red goals/yellow nets).
2. Have scrimmage vests available.
3. Have a ball for each athlete.
4. HAVE FUN!
TOPSOCCER QUESTION AND ANSWER
Q. What exactly
is a TOPSoccer player?
A. Any youth player between the ages of 4-19 that has a physical or mental disability that limits their ability to perform at the level of play they have chosen to participate.
Q. What is the TOPSoccer Program?
A. TOPSoccer is a USYSA program designed to train athletes with disabilities in a caring coaching environment to play soccer, to serve as a feeder program to recruit, assess and train players to participate in competitions and to mainstream higher ability players onto regular youth soccer teams.
Q. How are the TOPSoccer players covered by insurance?
A. The same as all your other players. There is no additional costs.
Q. Do we have to have a TOPSoccer Program?
A. No …But if you have a program for all other children, why not the disabled?
Q. If a child is disabled must they play in the TOPSoccer Program?
Q. What does the ADA Act have to do with TOPSoccer?
A. Nothing - The ADA act is basically between employer and employee. The important issue here is are you discriminating against children with disabilities?
Q. What is UNIFIED SOCCER?
A. Unified soccer is soccer played with a certain ratio of disabled player to normal players. Example: 5 V 5 ratio is 3 disabled players and 2 normal players of a team playing at the same time. Unified soccer is a great way to start a TOPSoccer program.
Q. How do I get coaches and volunteers for the TOPSoccer Program?
A. The same way you get coaches and volunteers for your other programs.
Q. Our State has a big Special Olympic Program that offers soccer, why do we need TOPSoccer?
A. Special Olympics is a great organization for disabled children. However ask them when they offer the sport of soccer. Usually its once a year, Special Olympics don’t offer the sport of soccer at all. How often does your state offer soccer to its players? We can learn how to work with disabled children from Special Olympics, but when it comes to soccer we are the experts. Would you call AT&T to fix your TV set? Then why would you have special Olympics running your soccer program?
Q. What types of disabilities are we talking about when it comes to TOPSoccer?
A. Disabilities could range from children in wheel chairs, mental retardation, down syndrome, learning disability, hearing impaired, etc. The list is endless. The only one that is of utmost importance is the child with downs-syndrome. A copy of a current neck x-ray is required. If x-ray is positive the child cannot participate in the game of soccer. The reason being that syndrome children are missing vertebrae in their necks and being hit in the head by a soccer ball could break their necks.