No matter the ability, TOPSoccer helps all kids learn the sport
Soccer. What a game. There is something about soccer that goes beyond just kicking a ball, soccer moms and watching the World Cup on TV. I love the game. I grew up with it. My parents coached me, and both my brother and two sisters played. When I got involved in coaching myself, soccer took me down a different road. Now I was looking at giving the game to other kids, the game I enjoy and now others can enjoy it also. What I didn’t realize is that soccer can be played by anyone.
It wasn’t until later on when I was coaching for the Alaska Rush Soccer Club that I came across a program called Rush Thunder, designed for kids with disabilities. This is where I realized that WOW… this is something that needs to be introduced to Alaska.
Rush Thunder, as it turns out, was part of the U.S. Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program (The Outreach Program for Soccer). TOPSoccer was formed to perpetuate the U.S. 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.”
I started the Alaska Rush Thunder program back in 2008 with more than 40 kids. At the same time, I found out that Eagle River Soccer Club had a similar program and we later provided the kids opportunity to play together at the Dome. This started a trend and other clubs began their own programs and offer TOPSoccer in other areas of the state as well.
Alaska currently has four TOPSoccer programs: two in Anchorage, one in Fairbanks and one in Juneau. Two annual events that bring all these programs together are the Alaska Airlines Cup TOPSoccer Showcase hosted by the Alaska Rush Soccer Club and the Alaska State Cup TOPSoccer Showcase. At these events, we provide the kids opportunities to scrimmage each other or against a competitive youth team.
How does TOPSoccer work? Each program is different but for the most part, players with all sorts of disabilities, from cognitive to physical limitations, learn and play soccer. The program provides coaches and buddies, and the equipment needed to run a typical soccer session. Buddies will provide assistance to the players who are learning the skills and how the game is played. Buddies can be anyone who has the passion to help another person find the joy in soccer.
This year, Alaska hosted the Region IV TOPSoccer Symposium at The Lakefront hotel near Lake Hood. Some of the leading coaches and top administrators spoke on the topic of coaching and running TOPSoccer programs at the local level. Chris Moore, who is the chief executive officer of U.S. Youth Soccer, spoke, along with guest Keith Johnson, who recently received 100 caps for playing on the U.S. Paralympic National Team. Rick Smith, national director of TOPSoccer for Rush, also spoke. He has been instrumental on coordinating all of Rush’s Thunder programs throughout the United States.
Rush and Alaska are proud to be able to offer soccer at all different levels, and give back to the community by offering soccer to all kids and adults.
— Robert J. DeVassie,
Alaska Youth Soccer TOPSoccer chairperson