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At the top of their game

-Mimi Hoang
Cartoon by Mimi Hoang

Major breakthroughs are being made every Sunday in the Westview Stadium.

Top Soccer is a program run through the soccer club, San Diego Soccer Club, that unites people of all abilities over the love of the game.

“Top Soccer is a national program designed to bring the fun of soccer to kids that ordinarily would not be able to play in recreational or club leagues, because of a physical or emotional challenge,” co-director Bob Whitney said.

High school students can volunteer to participate in the program and are called buddies.

“The buddies are usually high school students who don’t have any developmental delays, who then teach the younger students with special needs,” Westview junior Alexandra Meyer said. “The athletes are the special needs kids who have to register and sign up. They come here to participate in the camp.”

After realizing that the existing soccer clubs were not designed in a way that benefited the entire community, Whitney took action and made the necessary phone calls needed to create Top Soccer.

“I had the time, and I’m a believer that if you know something important you can do to help the community and give back, you should jump in do it,” Whitney said.

The program has grown enormously over the course of just three years.

“We started three years ago with about a dozen buddies and a dozen athletes,” Whitney said. “We brought two trainers down from Orange County and they’re the ones that gave us ideas on where to begin. Today we have about sixty buddies and thirty athletes involved.”

Although exercising and improving their skills are a large part of practices, the major focus is making the athletes feel good about themselves.

“We do a warm-up and stretches before anything else,” Meyer said. “Then we have drills that improve growth and fine motor skills. A lot of it is having them interact with their buddy to boost their self confidence and get them to open up more.”

Top Soccer provides a creative outlet for teenagers in the community to help others in a hands on way.

“After working with the athletes I feel really positive. A lot of the time they’ll have breakthroughs midway through practice, or do something that they’ve never done before,” Meyer said “I have an athlete that was told he wouldn’t speak in full sentences until he was ten and he started talking to me and his parents in full eloquent sentences since he started the program.”

Top Soccer not only provides kids with special needs with a loving place to practice a sport they are passionate about, but helps them create friendships as well.

“You really form a bond with the child that you’re working with,” Meyer said. “It makes you have a sense of gratitude for what you have. Seeing them so happy with the life that they have and watching them grow as people is very fulfilling.”

The positive energy created through the program Top Soccer can be seen radiating off the field for miles.

“The buddies are generally there for support and are there to listen if the athlete is struggling with something,” Meyer said. “Everyone is generally cheering for all the athletes whether they know them well or not. The athletes get cheered for by the buddies, and the buddies get cheered for by the parents. Everyone is very happy and excited.”

Any Sundevil looking for community service hours, or a way to improve the community has the opportunity to participate in this program. Practices are held every Sunday at Westview from 8:30 to 10:30 in the morning.  Top Soccer leaves its participants feeling sheer joy and a sense of accomplishment. The club can open the eyes of students to the greater joys of life and allows them to help others through the sport of soccer.

“They teach your more than you teach them. I’ve become a better person because of them,” Meyer said.

About Nicole Glidden

Nicole Glidden
Nicole Glidden is a proud Cheez-It addict, who spends her free time binge watching Netflix. She has trouble getting into jeans, due to her soccer calves. Nicole hates running with a passion, yet participates in multiple sports.

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