By the end of TOPSoccer Pumpkinfest Jamboree on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Tracy Sports Complex there were plenty of smiles to go around. TOPS (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is TYSL’s full-inclusion program.
The league runs from August to October along with the regular TYSL season. It gives children with disabilities, even young adults, a way to experience friendly competition and learn teamwork.
Renee Greiner said that her daughter Laynie, 9, a member of TYSL’s Giant Pirates, has been playing for five years. Laynie’s use of a walker doesn’t affect her enthusiasm or her desire to pursue the ball.
“It’s a great program, an awesome program,” Greiner said. “It has actually made her walk out of her walker.”
Randy Thomas, whose son, 7-year-old Christian, moved the ball up and down the field for the Giant Pirates during a game Saturday, said kids can participate at whatever level they’re comfortable with.
He said Christian participates as much as he can, and always looks forward to the weekly games.
“It puts him with kids that are more his skill level. It builds self confidence for him to play sports with other kids,” he said. “He’s really into it. It’s definitely something we’ll do again next year.”
Saturday’s event was Tracy’s turn to host the California Youth Soccer Association’s Cal North TOPSoccer jamboree, which brought 11 teams to town, including players from Brentwood, Antioch, Stockton, Madera and Fresno.
TYSL’s TOPSoccer coordinator Carolynn Rafferty started up the program in Tracy seven years ago.
She had just returned from a California Youth Soccer Association conference, where she saw the other leagues use the program. As a board member for TYSL she recognized that the local league was missing full-inclusion.
Rafferty started with a seven-player team, and now she has three teams with 47 players, divided more by ability than age. Players range from 4 years old to young adults. The league has two teams named Giant Pirates for the younger kids, and the Super Stars is team for bigger and older kids.
Rafferty is a volunteer, and said that the program is well worth the effort.
“They’re smiling and when they score a goal, you see the excitement on their faces, that they can do something that their sisters and brothers can do,” she said.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.