Hey everyone! This is Joe Lowery — I’m the editor here at Backheeled, where we’re gearing up for a busy summer. With the World Cup for the U.S. women’s national team, multiple tournaments for the men, domestic competitions, transfers, and a boatload of other things on the calendar, there won’t be a shortage of big things to cover in June and beyond.
Ahead of a jam-packed summer, we wanted to find a way to keep some perspective about why we love soccer so much.
So, uh, why do we love it so much? Well, soccer helps bring people together. It provides an outlet for people to forge new friendships, to support each other, and to have fun. Over the past few months, we’ve been looking for a way to help this game continue doing all of those things and we decided that this is the time to give back in our own small way.
Here’s what that looks like in practice.
For the entire month of June, we’re donating every dollar from every new Backheeled subscription (along with the June revenue from our currently monthly subscriptions) to TOPSoccer.
TOPSoccer, which stands for The Outreach Program for Soccer, is a sports program for children with physical, intellectual, or emotional disabilities put on by local US Youth Soccer clubs across the country. The program’s goal is to help people with diverse abilities have an opportunity to play soccer in a structured, safe, supported, and fun environment.
“The longer I've done it, the more and more I see a need,” Arizona TOPSoccer Chair Jason Hall told Backheeled earlier this week.
Hall has been the state Chair for Arizona for five years and has been involved in TOPSoccer at different clubs in Arizona for almost a decade. He’s seen first-hand how impactful the program can be.
“We had one athlete who was on the spectrum. He would maybe stay five minutes for the session, and our sessions are about an hour. The mom was really frustrated. She was very apologetic and sorry that they had to leave so early. I said, ‘no, this takes time, this is all new…it's a new environment, new kids, new place. Everything's new.’ People would be a little anxious for anything that's new, right? So, about three seasons later, he was now practicing and staying the whole time and staying engaged and didn't wanna leave,” Hall said.
“It was our last night and we had given out our medals and then it was the end of the season and [his mother] came up to me and she was crying. I thought, ‘oh boy, maybe we did something.’ But she goes, ‘these are tears of joy.’ She goes, ‘I have taken my son to every type of activity, I've tried to do so many different things with him and he would, he would never stay engaged…but you guys got him engaged and he is out here for the whole time and he's practicing and he's playing soccer with other kids.”
Arizona TOPSoccer uses donations to help purchase specialized equipment for players to use in their practices and games.
“Some programs that contact us don't have specialized equipment. So what we'll try to do is give them a go-bag with certain types of soccer balls we have. They're called rattle balls and they actually have rattles in them and they're a fluorescent yellow green color,” Hall said. “So for kids that are visually impaired, it helps with them because of the bright color and also because of the rattle, they can hear it.”
In addition to rattle balls, TOPSoccer uses outside donations to reduce registration costs for players.
“A lot of these families have a lot of additional costs when it comes to therapy or medications or devices or equipment that they have,” Hall said. “And so we try to keep these costs down for them.”
An eight week season costs roughly $50 for TOPSoccer players in Arizona, according to Hall.
“Sometimes it takes a couple seasons. This is all brand new [for players]. So I've had several parents say ‘okay, we’ll give it more time’ and then by the end of the season, they just can't believe what their child is doing...Over the years, they’ve matured and grown, and so now they’re up at the higher functioning. We had one girl who actually left TOPSoccer and went to rec soccer.”
If you want to support TOPSoccer and their mission to help children with disabilities enjoy playing soccer, subscribe to Backheeled any time in June. And if you want to get involved with TOPSoccer in your area, click here.
Let’s work together to give back this month.