US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a recreational sports program for children and adults with intellectual, emotional, or physical disabilities offered only through local USYS-affiliated soccer clubs. TOPSoccer, launched in 1990, is a grassroots and community-based initiative to engage athletes of diverse abilities in the game. Over 450 local programs across the country, involving almost 14,000 players. While FUN is at the core of TOPSoccer, the programs provide an opportunity for players to develop at their own pace in an environment that is safe and inclusive.
At the heart of TOPSoccer are the volunteer ‘Buddies’ who work with the players to engage them in skill-building exercises, fun activities, and competitive games. Volunteer coaches lead sessions, parents, occupational, speech, or physical therapists, special education teachers, and soccer coaches who also coach youth, high school, or college soccer.
TOPSoccer was formed to perpetuate the USYS 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. While the goal of each local TOPSoccer program is to engage these individuals in the game of soccer, the benefits of the program reach well beyond scoring goals. The players can engage in an activity that promotes overall health and wellness. In addition, the programs provide opportunities for social interaction both with their Buddies and their fellow TOPSoccer athletes. In addition to the athletes connecting, the sessions are a fantastic opportunity for parents to socialize and share resources while enjoying watching their son or daughter play.
The Buddy+Player Connection
In many ways, this is where the TOPSoccer ‘magic’ happens. It is no surprise that TOPSoccer players thrive with the support of their Buddies. Having a 1:1 relationship with the same Buddy throughout the season means that relationships form, and Buddies are more than a training partner. Buddies can have many levels of involvement with their player, including acting as eyes (for those with visual impairments) and feet (for those in wheelchairs): ongoing encouragement and positive reinforcement build players’ self-worth, confidence, and resilience in handling new tasks. As a result, our players realize many life lessons that every other child who plays sports gains from their involvement.
Letter From a Parent That Typifies TOPSoccer
The following letter was sent recently to one of our coaches from a parent of a high school-age player. It highlights some of the FUNtastic benefits that TOPSoccer provides.
Want To Know More?
If you want to find out more about TOPSoccer, including finding places to play and coaching resources, please visit our website at https://www.usyouthsoccer.org/programs/topsoccer/. You can also email TOPSoccer Committee Marketing & Communications Chair Shannon Hartinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or Committee Chair Dave Robinson at email@example.com.
USYS TOPSoccer Committee
TOPSoccer Committee Member
Marketing & Communications