2011 TOPSOCCER JAMBOREE AN OVERWHELMING SUCCESS!!!!
Article Published July 10, 2011 in
Telegram & Gazette
Ray Robinson, director of TOPSoccer Outreach programs and board member of the
Mass Youth Soccer Association, with Jocelyn McCormack, 17, a medal-winner at the
2011 TOPSoccer Jamboree yesterday in Lancaster.
Ms. McCormack is with her coach/buddy Anna Quan, 14. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
LANCASTER — Jocelyn McCormack, 17, laid out her soccer uniform shirt, cleats, socks and shin guards as soon as her mom, Estelle, told her that they were going to a game.
“She loves kicking the ball, being with the other kids, and she especially loves getting the medals,” said Ms. McCormack, who drove from Chelmsford to the 2011 TOPSoccer Jamboree just so her daughter could take part in the event.
TOPSoccer — The Outreach Program for Soccer — is Mass Youth Soccer Association’s program for young athletes with disabilities. Run wholly by volunteers, it places each athlete with a volunteer coach/buddy. Modifications to the game and training are made to allow participation for each child.
“Soccer is the easy part. There is no competition, no standings; it’s just pure unadulterated soccer fun. Getting them out on the field for a little exercise, a little sunshine, we have fun with a soccer ball,” said Ray Robinson, director of TOPSoccer Outreach programs and board member of the Mass Youth Soccer Association.
TOPSoccer is currently in 40 communities in Massachusetts, with 900 kids of all ages participating. Mr. Robinson said his goal is to double, or even triple, the number of programs in the Commonwealth.
Howie Blatt of Holden says his town’s program hosts 25 to 30 kids during each of the fall and spring seasons. Students from Assumption College and Wachusett Regional High School do volunteer work as coaches.
“We had one kid with a rare disorder which affected him socially and physically; he’s been with us for six years now. He can run, has friends, introduces himself now, and has a blast playing. Soccer is the vehicle in this case, and has given him self-esteem and confidence,” Mr. Blatt said.
Mr. Robinson’s job is to help make these programs happen. Whether it is five kids or 100, he and his organization will partner with “that special person that steps up and says that they want a program in their town.”
And the programs are not defined by the towns in which they are based, according to Ted Ritchie, president of Mass Youth Soccer.
“Wilmington’s program has 100 kids; some of them come from as far as Rhode Island to take part. Even though there is no program right now in, say, Lunenburg; that does not mean a Lunenburg child cannot participate. We are a program without boundaries,” Mr. Ritchie said.
The Bardells of Stoneham have their two children, Autumn, 9, and Bryce, 7, participating in Wilmington. “Autumn has gained a confidence that she never had playing other sports. This, she loves. She plays, makes friends and just loves it. This gets them both outside and moving! We even have programs between the spring and fall seasons where they can play basketball and go bowling with TOPS,” said Kathleen Bardell.
The medals that are awarded to each child are prized possessions: The Bardell children know where they are all the time, play with them, talk about what they did to win them.
Spaulding Rehabilitation Network of Boston sponsored the Jamboree. “Every day at Spaulding, through our own adaptive sports programs, we see the transformative power that sports can have for people of all abilities. Such programs not only promote fitness, but encourage participants to achieve more than they ever thought they could. We are proud to partner with TOPS,” said David Storto, president of Spaulding.
The youngest soccer player on the field Saturday, Owen Pavao, 3, of Somerset summed it up succinctly, “I like playing and racing and my T-Rex tattoo the best.”
For more information: www.mayouthsoccer.org/topsoccer.aspx
Thank you, Spaulding Rehabilitation Netwrok of Boston for all that you do and all that you mean to our TOPSoccer kids!!!