Sports are a great way for people of all ages to get fit, build strength, and develop friendships, but for individuals with disabilities opportunities to participate in sports can sometimes be difficult to find. Fortunately, TOPSoccer gives children and adults who are cognitively, physically, or emotionally challenged the opportunity to play soccer.
TOPSoccer, a national organization, made its way to Toledo in 2015 after Paul Holgate, a soccer enthusiast with a passion for helping others, was introduced to the organization while attending a conference. He quickly realized that the program was something that Toledo needed and he contacted Elaine Stead to see if she would run the organization.
Stead admitted that at first she was a little hesitant about running the organization as she didn’t have the experience working with individuals with special needs. However, now, after running the Toledo organization for three years, she explained that it has become her passion. And that passion is evident when talking to Stead as she shares the success stories of the TOPSoccer participants.
The organization has grown immensely over the past three years. It first started with three participants, but that number has grown to almost seventy participants, of all ages. A typical Sunday (when practices are held) usually has around thirty participants. TOPSoccer, currently more of a skills-based program than a soccer team, allows participants to attend at their convenience . Stead explains it as “drop-in, drop-out”, which means participants can attend whenever they choose.
There are no age restrictions, although Stead does state that they try to keep the youngest players at about five years old simply because really young children often require more individual attention than the volunteers can currently provide.
Many of the volunteers are from the Toledo Football Academy. Coaches from TFA coach TOPSoccer along with many of the TFA players who volunteer their time to work, one on one, with the TOPSoccer players. What starts out as simply volunteering often turns into much more for both TFA and TOPSoccer participants. “Friendships have formed and the stories are just phenomenal,” explained Stead. “It’s become a place for those [participants] to feel included and accepted…it’s become a great equalizer.”
Participating in TOPSoccer is entirely free thanks to grants and donations from area donors. There is no formal registration, but the organization does have a group email list that they use to keep participants informed. The easiest way to get involved as a participant, or as a volunteer, is to email Elaine Stead at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September 16th and 30th
November 4th and 18th
December 2nd and 16th
January 6th and 20th
February 3rd and 17th
March 3rd and 17th
Maumee Soccer Center | 1620 Marketplace Dr, Maumee