Since 2010, Wilton Soccer Association has been offering TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer), a community-based soccer program that provides meaningful learning, development, and physical participation opportunities for young athletes with disabilities. The program is designed to meet the needs of children aged 4-18 years regardless of their physical and/or intellectual abilities.
TOPSoccer fosters the physical and emotional growth and development of players at all levels. It takes kids from the sidelines and gets them into the game, by pairing each player with one or two peer buddies to help them learn fundamentals of the sport during weekly Saturday instruction, practice and scrimmage play.
The players develop a sense of community and will learn what it is like to be a part of a team. The program focuses on social skills, fitness and self-esteem, and, of course, fun.
“The WSA mission is to positively contribute to the growth of children and our community by reinforcing values such as sportsmanship, teamwork, integrity and respect for others through a range of fun and high quality soccer experiences,” says Wilton Soccer Association president Jason Partenza. “We make opportunities in soccer available to every child in town, no matter their age, skill or otherwise. The TOPSoccer program aligns perfectly with this mission.”
The program brings together high school student volunteers, also know. as “buddies” with the program’s player participants of age 5-18 each week.
“Players love getting to know their buddies and the buddies love their players. On the field, all of these young people are peers and the focus is simply on creating joy through new friendships, soccer and movement,” Partenza adds.
Sessions are held once a week on Sunday afternoons at Wilton’s Comstock Field. The one-hour long sessions incorporate fun games, drills and small sided games–always with an emphasis on fun. Teams are grouped by ability, not by age, and buddies stay on the field with the players. Parents are required to stay at field during entire session.
Wilton High School student Rachel Slater is leading the student volunteer effort this year as student captain, coordinating the buddies. Her mom, Wendy Slater, steers the administrative side. Volunteers make the program what it is, says Partenza.
“We couldn’t be more grateful for the Dedrick family who brought TOPSoccer to Wilton back in 2010, and for Wendy and Rachel who are currently leading the effort. It is a special program and one we want everyone to know about and support for many years to come.”