December 16, 2008

Special-Needs Athletes Visit Campus for Weekend Soccer Clinic

Dec. 15, 2008

Learn More About the TOPSoccer Program

Cal State Northridge TOPSoccer Fest Photo Gallery

NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -

With a number of students fighting to handle the pressures and stress attached volume of projects and tests given during finals week, a group of individuals at Cal State Northridge were still able to laugh, smile, and enjoy themselves as Cal South teamed up with the Men's Soccer program at Northridge, and Real So Cal Soccer Club to host the inaugural TOPSoccer Fest earlier this month.

TOPSoccer stands for The Outreach Program for Soccer; a program adopted by US Youth Soccer in 1991 that provides children with special needs the opportunity to participate and compete in the sport of soccer.

In this community-based soccer program provided by Cal South, one of the premier youth soccer organizations in the nation, rules are modified to allow children with different needs and abilities an opportunity to succeed in a safe and fun environment against their peers of similar skills and talents.

With a number of athletes from Real So Cal and Cal State Northridge Men's Soccer team facilitating a number of drills, games, and events, some of the San Fernando Valley's most competitive athletes brought their parents to the main campus to participate in the inaugural event.

Cal South Top Soccer Chairperson Sandy Castillo was more than willing to help organize the event, the first-of-its-kind to take place on-campus.

"There are not a lot of program out there that are specifically available for children with special needs and their parents," explained Castillo. "For kids who have never played the sport of soccer, clinics like this one are great opportunities to learn the game of soccer. With everyone telling these kids and their parents that they cannot or should not play organized sports, this proves that special-needs athletes have the ability to play soccer and compete just like anyone else."

Ten year-old Matthew Rivas was one of a number of kids participating in his first TOPSoccer event. After hearing about the event from his friends, he persuaded his parents to drive out to Northridge from West Hills for the day.

"This is my first time and I am having a lot of fun, explained Rivas. "I am good at playing goalkeeper and like playing soccer. I am having fun with my parents and want to play soccer in the park some more once I am home."

His father, Jose Rivas, was quite impressed with the setup of the event and appreciated the opportunity provided not only to his son, but other children as well.

"This is his (Matthew) first time playing organized soccer. He played kickball before, but nothing like this. So this is a nice and unique experience," explained Rivas. "I think it is a great opportunity for the kids to just have fun. With the different ages and abilities, my son still feels involved and that is important to me as a parent."

In 2007, only one TOPSoccer event was scheduled for parents and their children to participate in. As a testament to the ever-expanding influence of the program, five events were scheduled to take place in 2008, with additional events being organized, developed, and scheduled to take place in 2009.

"Once we have a regular schedule of events taking place, like the one held at CSUN, then kids can tell their friends about what is going one, and the program itself can continue to grow," stated Castillo.

The timing of the event is perfect for a lot of the kids involved with the TOPSoccer program as their respective soccer leagues finish their season anywhere from mid-to-late November, and have very few opportunities to continue playing soccer until leagues begin once again in the spring.

"Now that our season is over," explained Cal State Northridge Head Coach Terry Davila "we have the opportunity to focus our efforts towards helping the community. When I spoke to my team about this event, I had a number of guys who were excited to help out. I would love to help out to make this a recurring event, one that is synonymous with the university."

Spread out amongst a sea of fluorescent cones, one may have a hard time deciphering exactly who was having the most fun as the volunteers involved with the planning and execution of all the drills and games possessed smiles just as wide as the athletes participating in them.

Providing additional assistance throughout the event was Steve Manios, a representative from the Calabasas-based soccer club Real So Cal, and a number of his players who traveled from their respective homes in either the San Fernando or Conejo Valley with their parents to help out during the day-long event.

"I have been having fun watching out Real So Cal boys working, interacting, and having fun out there. This is our first time being involved in an event like this; Terry (Davila) e-mailed me and asked us if we were interested in assisting with the organization of the event, and we were more than happy to help," said Manios.

"The boys who are here helping out today are like other 13 and 14-year olds, but unlike some of their peers they could care less about their image, are fully involved with the participants, and are having a good time themselves."

To learn more about Cal South and the TOPSoccer program, visit http://www.calsouth.com/topsoccer.htm to find out how you or your child can volunteer or participate in one of the litany of events taking place throughout the year around Southern California.

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