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Oct, 2023

NJYS TOPSoccer Aspires to Make the Game Accessible to Players with Disabilities

TOPSoccer is a community-based program that provides training and team placement for young athletes with disabilities. The program provides training and assistance for affiliated programs to better serve players with physical or intellectual disabilities.

“TOPSoccer facilitates safe, fun and inclusive soccer playing environments that are holistically adapted to an appropriate level of challenge for each individual player,” said Lou Mignone, NJYS TOPSoccer Director. “The Buddies and Coaches are committed to supporting and guiding players with care, enthusiasm and unconditional individual attention. Players, through enriching experiences within the beautiful game, develop a wide range of skills and a strong sense of belonging and enjoyment.”

New Jersey Youth Soccer has continued to see an increase in TOPSoccer Programs among its club members and other organizations throughout the state, with several new programs being established in recent months. Player registration, as well as TOPSoccer Coach and Buddy training, is currently offered at no cost due to the generous support of RWJBarnabas Health.

“We saw a need to offer an essential program for our special needs community,” said Antonio Pagkalinawan, TOPSoccer Coordinator of Watchung Hills SC. “Helping our community and helping kids to be excellent citizens by helping others is a core principle of our Club. We don’t just say it but actually put it into practice. The best part of TOPSoccer is seeing the smiling, happy faces of the players and families as well as the buddies.”

The overall goal of TOPSoccer is to give children with disabilities an opportunity to develop physical fitness, technical skills, courage and self-esteem through the game of soccer. TOPSoccer emphasizes development and training over competition, helping athletes to develop at their own pace and participate based on their individual abilities.

“We love the inclusiveness and methodology of TOPSoccer, which is perfect for our community,” said representatives from Club Dreams, a down syndrome enrichment center in Ewing, New Jersey. “Our missions align perfectly. TOPSoccer's mission and our mission ‘dedicated to providing support, education, opportunity and enrichment to persons with Down Syndrome and their families’ are in complete alignment. We love how TOPSoccer helps instill social skills, teamwork, perseverance and confidence in the players while including Buddies to help cultivate these concepts.”

The success of NJYS TOPSoccer is thanks in large part to the generous support of RWJBarnabas Health, which makes player registration, TOPSoccer Coach training and TOPSoccer Buddy training available at no cost to participants.

“RWJBarnabas Health is committed to supporting community-based initiatives where individuals from underserved populations have an opportunity to stay active and learn valuable life lessons,” said Justin Edelman, Senior Vice President Corporate Partnerships, RWJBarnabas Health. “TOPSoccer is such a meaningful program for the kids, as well as the buddies who volunteer their time.”

To become a recognized NJYS TOPSoccer Program, a minimum of five players with disabilities must be registered. Also, a minimum of one TOPSoccer Coach needs to complete a four-hour TOPSoccer Coach Course, and at least one TOPSoccer Buddy needs to successfully complete a two-hour TOPSoccer Buddy Course. These courses help train Buddies and Coaches on how to make TOPSoccer Programs a fun, safe and inclusive experience. Emphasis is placed on effective communication strategies, problem-solving and successfully guiding players.

Link to article: New Jersey Youth Soccer Association > Home (

If you are interested in starting a TOPSoccer Program at your club or community organization, we encourage you to contact Coach Lou Mignone at [email protected].
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