WEST ORANGE, NJ - Mountaintop League's US Youth Soccer Program Created for Young Athletes with Mental & Physical Disabilities, the TOPSoccer outreach, has kicked into high gear as enthusiastic athletes, coaches and parents rave about the experience.
Lou Mignone, a West Orange resident, WOPD detective, WOHS Girls Soccer coach, and Mountaintop League Soccer coach, first heard about the TOPSoccer program through the New Jersey Youth Soccer community. After attending an instructor’s course in Philadelphia, he caught the vision of the tremendous value of the TOPSoccer program and began the journey to bring this program to West Orange.
Sports touch lives in different ways. Many children start throwing, swinging, and kicking as a normal course of life. As they grow up, they join teams, attend practices, score goals, and go on to earn scholarships and some even a chance at the pros. But until recently, a group of aspiring athletes, those living with mental or physical disabilities have had limited opportunities to experience the same excitement as their peers.
“Children with disabilities from that city were invited to participate in this event and I was able to be part of the fun, happiness, and excitement that these players and their families experienced that weekend. I knew from that moment that I needed to do all that I could to grow TOPSoccer in our part of the youth soccer world.” said Mignone.
US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) 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.
After months of planning and coordination with community volunteer leaders from The Mountain Top League, West Orange United FC, and the West Orange Recreation Department, Mignone's vision became reality with the launch of the program in the Spring of 2014. The program became an immediate success and players, families coaches, and volunteers experienced immeasurable rewards that mere words cannot begin to describe.
“What really makes the TOPSoccer program a great success is the enthusiasm that Coach Lou and all of the other "buddies" bring to each practice. From our view on the sidelines, I can tell you that each and every child is engaged, and having fun,” said parent David Miller.
“From the moment we told my son that we had signed him up for the TOPSoccer program, he enthusiastically looked forward to the first session. It seems as if his whole weekly routine revolves around TOPSoccer. In fact, it's become something that our entire family looks forward to as well,” continued Miller.
The fall session of TOPSoccer began in October, which is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month. During the month, communities across the country celebrate people with down syndrome and raise awareness of their abilities and accomplishments. As the National Down Syndrome Society website states, “It’s not about celebrating disabilities, it’s about celebrating abilities.”
The TOPSoccer program is open to boys/girls ages 5-18 and each player is provided a uniform and 1:1 instruction and support from his or her TOPSoccer Buddy. The program runs for approximately 8 weeks with events taking place each Saturday afternoon at 4pm at Liberty Middle School.
For more information including sponsorship opportunities or to get involved, please contact Coach Lou Mignone, firstname.lastname@example.org