Beachside TOPSoccer

The Problem

Soccer enthusiasts abound in the Town of Melbourne Beach and the surrounding community. With four soccer clubs in the barrier island area, and ten more on the nearby mainland, over 8,000 youth soccer players are registered in Brevard County. I, Kimberly Bress, have all spent countless hours at the soccer fields - making friends, being active, and learning many lessons. Through my sustained participation in the sport, I have learned that soccer not only brings enjoyment and healthy activity, but also instills values of teamwork, participation, respect, and responsibility. My older sister Elizabeth is a special needs athlete. Elizabeth and I had played soccer together since childhood. However, as we got older, the sport became increasingly competitive and dangerous. The Florida Youth Soccer Association discouraged Elizabeth from participating in the regular recreational soccer leagues. Even though Elizabeth was excluded from participation in the recreational soccer leagues, she still wanted to participate in the sport. When my family and I searched for a soccer program for special needs athletes in the community, it was discovered that the closest program was over and hour away. I realized that a soccer program for athletes with disabilities was a pressing need in my community. As of the 2000 census, 9.5% of the 476,000 individuals in Brevard County, 5 to 20 years old, reported a disability. Additional research shows Brevard is home to roughly 1,107 physically disabled as well as 5,397 mentally disabled males and females, ages 5 to 20 years old. There are Exceptional Student Education programs in each school in our community. Through this research, I concluded that there was a large population of special needs children that could benefit from a special needs soccer program. Since there were no soccer programs for special needs athletes in my community, I realized that a local soccer program for athletes with disabilities should be established in the community. Special needs athletes should have the opportunity to reap the many benefits of soccer such as teamwork, friendship, a sense of accomplishment, and physical exercise.

Plan of Action

Through research I discovered two outstanding programs: the national TOPSoccer Program endorsed by the US Youth Soccer Association, and the Special Olympics Soccer program. I further researched both programs to see what kind of training, funds, and other qualifications would be required to start a local affiliate of one of these programs. After I conducted this research, I created the following criteria to analyze the two programs to determine which program best fit my project mission: Which solution will require the least amount of training to become a certified coach or trainer? Which solution will be most convenient for the families of athletes with special needs? Which will draw the largest amount of volunteers and create the most awareness for athletes with disabilities in our community? Which will be most supported by local soccer clubs and the Florida Youth Soccer Association? Which solution will draw the most funding and qualify for the most grants and sponsorships? Which solution will be the most sustainable program, so that athletes with disabilities will have a consistent annual soccer program in which they can participate? Which solution will be the quickest to form and implement so that athletes can begin playing soccer as soon as possible? After these assessments, I concluded that the TOPSoccer program best fit my community’s immediate needs. I then created the following plan of action based upon this decision: Funding: By January, 2012 - Apply for grants and contact local sponsors for financial donations and equipment. Acquire a tax-deductible non-profit checking account for the program to deposit donations, grant money, and sponsorship funds. This account will encourage local investment into the program since donations would be tax-deductible. Publicity: By January, 2012 - Generate a website and Facebook group to publicize the program. Create an email account for communications and to keep a database of athlete, volunteer, and sponsor contact information. Volunteer at the other TOPSoccer Program and document these volunteering experiences using a video diary. Post program publicity videos on YouTube to further advocate TOPSoccer. Create business cards and flyers as additional publicity mediums. Distribute these to teachers, principals, students, coaches, and staff servicing the Exceptional Student Education Programs at all local schools as well as the Scott Center for Autism. Visit the Trainable Mentally Handicapped Programs at local schools to promote the program and build relationships with these students and their teachers. Qualifications and Networking August, 2011 – February, 2012 – Beginning in August, I will visit and participate in Special Olympics events to network with special needs athletes and parents. This will aid me in learning how to interact with special needs athletes. On November 5, 2011, I will become certified TOPSoccer coaches through participation in the TOPSoccer Coaches Certification course in Auburndale Florida, which is a free course promoted by the Florida Youth Soccer Association. Beginning in January 2012, my sister and I will participate in the Indian River (IRSA) TOPSoccer Program, which is run by the Regional TOPSoccer Director, Joseph Duffey. Furthermore, I will contact regional, state, and national TOPSoccer administrators to gain insight and advice on how to operate a TOPSoccer program, as well as learn about possible funding opportunities. Preparation for Opening Day (First Day of the Beachside TOPSoccer Inaugural Season): Before February 1, 2012- I will present the project to the Melbourne Beach Soccer Club at a board meeting and ask for their endorsement of the program, including a consistent time and field location for practices. Equipment needs will be assessed and purchased from a local soccer supplier. Photo and video journaling will be used to document the volunteer work of the CmPS team at the IRSA TOPSoccer program. This journaling will be used for guidance when developing our program, as well as for publicity purposes. Bright Futures Community Service Forms will be obtained for all volunteers. Registration materials for volunteers and athletes will be created as well as a filing system for registration papers. Orientation will be held for volunteers, athletes, and parents to register and learn more about our program. The program will hold an Opening Day in March in conjunction with Brevard Youth Soccer League’s Opening Day for recreational and competitive soccer, and continue for an eight week duration. Recruiting: In October 2012- Contact the Interact Club, (a community service club at my high school) to promote the program. Ask Interact Club members to join as volunteers. In January 2012, while training as volunteers with the Indian River TOPSoccer Program, create video and photo documentation to use as publicity for our own program. Post media on YouTube and Facebook to show prospective volunteers and athletes how the program operates. Put posters, flyers, business cards, and registration materials at local elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as at The Scott Center for Autism, Early Intervention Center, and other local organizations. Sustainability: In April, 2012- Plan for further seasons of my local TOPSoccer program, including a summer camp. Develop ideas on how to spread TOPSoccer programs to other areas on the Space Coast so that soccer opportunities are accessible to even more athletes, in more communities. To successfully execute this Action Plan, I must overcome the major obstacle of scheduling. Because I aim to operate the TOPSoccer program in conjunction with the regular county soccer season, I must carefully coordinate with the Melbourne Beach Soccer Club to ensure that we have a consistent, secure time and location for the program’s practice sessions. I must also choose a day of the week and time that would best fit the schedules of prospective volunteers and athletes. Besides scheduling conflicts, I must consider the safety and health concerns that accompany working with special needs athletes. Registration and insurance of the volunteers and athletes will also be challenges in the execution of the action plan.

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