Marlton soccer will introduce a free program to Evesham Township for children with special needs.
The program will be done in conjunction with The Outreach Program for Soccer, better known as TOPSoccer.
According to the US Youth Soccer website, the program 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 who has a mental or physical disability. The goal is to enable the thousands of young athletes with disabilities to become valued and successful members of the US Youth Soccer family.
“There was a need to have it in the area,” said Barry Fitzgerald, TOPSoccer buddy coordinator. “It’s good for them to get out there and have fun.”
The program is open to kids ages 5 to 18 from Marlton and surrounding towns.
According to Fitzgerald, the program will not focus on competition, but generating interest from kids who want to get out there to play.
There will be two field types to accommodate the various needs of participants.
There will be a grass field with multiple nets and an asphalt “field” for athletes in wheelchairs or who need the use of a walker.
Additionally, there will be soccer balls with flaps on them so they don’t roll as far and are easier to control.
“All of the participants will get a jersey for coming out,” said Fitzgerald. “They’ll say Marlton Soccer on all of them.”
Fitzgerald emphasized there will not be any serious competition or teams, rather coaches and buddies will be teaching the skills of soccer in a fun environment.
“There will be 10 trained coaches, with two coaches assigned to a field,” he said. “Buddies will be someone that is always with the kids working with them and teaching them.”
Fitzgerald is hopeful for two buddies per player.
“If 50 players come out we will need 100 buddies,” he said. “We’re in the process of figuring it out.”
Volunteers who come out as buddies will be able to receive community service hours for school or church.
Fitzgerald plans to create an email list for buddies, which will include weekly updates and a list of people who can come out and play with the kids.
Coaches and officials will spend a day in training, learning about the different needs of each athlete and how to coach in the TOPSoccer atmosphere.
Registration began on Feb. 1 and will continue until the beginning of the season, April 27.
“It’s free to register, everything is being paid for through donations and sponsors,” said Fitzgerald.
The program will run for approximately eight weeks.
“It’s trial and error. We’re hoping to improve the program as it grows,” said Fitzgerald.
For information about the benefits of becoming a sponsor, please contact Jim Cucinotta at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about becoming a Buddy, contact Fitzgerald at email@example.com.
For more information about the TOPSoccerprogram, contact Mark vonBerg at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Marlton soccer website at marltonsoccer.org