Monday, June 27th, 2022, Grand Park, Westfield IN. Indiana Soccer hosted the 2022 USYS Midwest Regional Championships TOPSoccer Festival at Grand Park, Westfield IN on Monday, June 27th. The turnout was great with as many as 50 TOPSoccer athletes participating in the annual event. The “Buddy Program” as it is popularly known in the soccer eco-system saw more than 200 referees, as well as several teams that invested their day off supporting this especially important part of the USYS Soccer family.
Indiana Soccer has done an impeccable job of helping & supporting 12 member clubs set up TOPSoccer programs in their respective communities with IFJ South starting one in July special thanks to Joy Carter, Indiana Soccer’s TOPSoccer Staff Liaison. All 12 clubs were involved in the weekend’s festivals.
“The Midwest Regional Championship TOPSoccer Festival is what life is all about. Utilizing the day off for referees, players & coaches who act as buddies for the special needs community grounds us to what life is really all about. The one thing you see is pure joy on everyone’s face who participated. I encourage you to get involved with TOPSoccer” stated Dave Guthrie – Indiana Soccer’s Executive Director
Huge kudos to the following Indiana Soccer member clubs for delivering a unique soccer experience to our special needs community through TOPSoccer in Indiana: Jasper Youth Soccer, Bloomington Cutters, Hobart Youth Soccer, VCYS Terre Haute, Indy Premier, Butler/Dynamo Indianapolis FC, Zionsville Youth Soccer Association, Columbus Express Soccer Club, Fort Wayne Sports Club, Michiana Echo Soccer Club, South Central Soccer Academy, Jr. Irish Soccer, and John Glenn High School. Follow this link to see a full list of participating TOPSoccer clubs https://www.soccerindiana.org/topsoccer-clubs/
“I love this festival as it gives athletes that have not had the opportunity to participate in our program a chance to see what it is all about. The festival is also a great networking resource in which we can learn and provide ideas. Seeing the excitement and joy that the festival brings brought me pure happiness!” said Joy Carter, Indiana Soccer TOPSoccer’s liaison.
The inaugural event was launched in Indiana by USYS in 2018. The goal was to assemble athletes that qualified for the prestigious regional along with all the regional level referees, to create an environment that allows athletes with special needs to enjoy the game while being enthusiastically supported of all of those in attendance.
“USYS Midwest Regional Championship wanted to provide an environment for TOPSoccer athletes to experience the same type of championship atmosphere that the soccer players here at the Midwest Regional Championships are experiencing. We want to make sure that all athletes feel part of the program. We are a big community, and we want to make sure that everybody feels welcome in USYS.” stated Jonathan Meersman – US Youth Soccer Region II Referee Administrator & current Chairman & Program Manager USYS Midwest Regional Championships.
“Several years ago, USYS saw the unique opportunity to bring referees, players, and athletes with special needs together under the TOPSoccer brand with the goal of integrating and including these special athletes as part of the overall soccer community” stated Midwest Region Referee Administrator – Chico Villarruel.
“Soccer is something that affects all of us. It is a sport that we all enjoy and more importantly, it unifies us to bring joy to the lives of special athletes who want nothing more than to participate and have fun. So, the concept of the TOPSoccer buddy program, coupled with the USYS Midwest Regional event is for everybody to take a step back from the competitive environment & the pressure associated with it, to enjoy and build community and bring value to the lives of people who aren’t always part of the soccer eco-system.” stated Villarruel.
The event kicked off with TOPSoccer athletes buddying up with referees and players doing warm-up drills that included dribbling the ball, shooting into the goal, and high fives. This was followed by fun games that included pushing a giant soccer ball into the goal, dancing, & fun competitions. The players were divided into two teams to participate in soccer games. At the end of the event, every TOPSoccer athlete received a medal and the enthusiastic support of all of those in attendance.
Participants included at least 20 TOPsoccer athletes from Charlene’s Angels from Greenwood, Indiana, some from Fort Wayne, Noblesville, Bargersville, & across the Midwest Region. Special thanks to Shawn Danhouser for organizing the event and running point on the program for the past 10 years. We want to thank the event organizers, led by the Midwest referees, the Indiana Soccer Association, the USYS staff, Shawn, & dozens of volunteers for a well-organized and fun-filled event. A huge shoutout to the Midwest Regional referees and semifinalist teams for taking time off to make the event a success.
If you or your club are on the fence about how to go about starting a TOPSoccer program, Shawn advises that you simply get involved with an existing TOPSoccer program. USYS has done an incredible job of supporting this amazing program and better yet, your state association has all the resources that you need to get the program started.
“I invite those clubs that aren’t currently offering TOPSoccer to make it a priority. It affords an amazing experience for the athletes, the families, and the volunteer buddies. I think the buddies actually get more out of participating than do the special athletes themselves. This is one way to impact all participants, the community, and families and it helps develop athletes on and off the field” stated Shawn Danhouser, Director of TOPSoccer, Midwest Region.
Wisconsin Soccer Association staff member, Megan Word had this to say about Midwest TOPSoccer event, “What I love about TOPSoccer is that it brings different people together. It's pairing the athletes with buddies giving buddies an experience they have never encountered before.”
"It was great to see the Referees interact with TopSoccer athletes away from the challenging environment associated with competitive games. The referees were just enjoying, having fun, relaxing, and making others enjoy the game. We sometimes forget that there is a “giving back” side to soccer than just competing and winning" stated Samir Yasa, SRA - Indiana State Referee Association.
For more information about the Indiana TOPSoccer programs, contact TOPSoccer Staff Liaison Joy Carter at email@example.com