Welcome to the world of TOPSoccer! This section aims to dismiss many of the misconceptions that you may have about players with disabilities. Information contained below is designed to help educate you about the players with whom you will be working. This information is general information and may not cover all the situations you may encounter. If you have further questions, please email Cal South TOPSoccer Chair Sandy Castillo at

General Information

A TOPSoccer player is any athlete, who for physical, mental, or behavioral reasons cannot successfully participate in a recreational soccer program. The players range from age 4 and older. Check with your league and/or state association to determine their starting age for players. Our goal is to provide a safe environment in which the player can participate in a soccer program, based on ability, not age. The ability and participation level of these athletes will be diverse.

The TOPSoccer athlete should not be defined by their disabilities. Remember, they are, first and foremost, athletes with different personalities and abilities.

The key to the success of these athletes is patience. Each player will develop at his or her own rate. We are in their time zone. We cannot rush the time in which they will learn, but we can make this adventure fun for all involved. These athletes require physical activity for optimum health and the opportunity to participate in organized sports. Participation in the TOPSoccer program can help the athlete develop a positive self-image and self-confidence.

For many of these players, this will be their first experience in organized team sports. Many do not have the basic understanding of the concept of the game. The TOPSoccer program will consist of a wide variety of ages and abilities.

Keep in mind that the parents of the participating TOPSoccer athletes will be on hand to assist you in dealing with their children.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Over the years, the number of TOPSoccer players with autism has grown. This is the least understood syndrome affecting our players. The spectrum of autism continues to grow each year as do the number of children diagnosed each year. This is also the area where most coaches have the most difficulty.

This is a simplistic overview of the syndrome. Consult with their parents for the best way to coach their player with autism. Each player is different, and parents are the best source of information. Players with Autism are generally not “Rain Man,” “mentally retarded,” or “unreachable.” They in fact, live a “normal life” and participate in most facets of society (i.e., recreation, work, school, etc.).

They have uncanny memory skills, follow rules, are not subject to peer pressure, are not cheaters, and understand fairness. Players with autism exhibit odd behavior, abnormal eye contact, strange tone or inflection in voice, difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, may appear not to hear you, are rigid, and may have normal or above normal IQ.


  • No speech, non-speech sounds, delayed speech, mimicking words without understanding meaning, profound confusion, frustration with lack of speech is common
  • Lack of peer interaction, lack of eye contact, seemingly unaware of other people, treating people as objects, parallel play rather than interaction
  • Lack of imaginative play
  • Not interested in being picked up/cuddled, preoccupied by 1:1 movement, flapping hands, tiptoe walking, aggressiveness towards others, lack of interest in “normal” toys, obsessive towards patterns, repetitive in behavior, lining things up, self-injury, needing to live with a routine that does not change
  • Dislikes certain sounds, dislikes being touched, very passive or very active behavior, nervousness, unaware of various physical stimuli such as pain, covering ears at loud noises, “blanking out” active environments, often seems uncomfortable in extreme

Autism causes kids to experience the world differently from others. It is difficult for players with autism to talk to others and express themselves using words. They usually keep to themselves, and many cannot communicate without special help. Normal sounds may bother these athletes and they may cover their ears. Touch, even a gentle touch, may make them uncomfortable. They have difficulties connecting with other people. Players with autism do not like change in routines and may have difficulty making sense of the world.

Listed are a few of the Autistic Spectrum Disorders:

Asperger’s Syndrome (AS)/Pervasive Development Disorders (PDD)

    • Characterized by social isolation and eccentric behavior/impairment in two-sided social interaction and non- verbal communication/grammatical, but peculiar speech due to abnormalities of inflection and repetitive patters/clumsiness in both their articulation and gross motor behavior/have circumscribed area of interest leaving no space for age-appropriate common interest


    • Features advanced reading abilities at early age/comprehension is questioned, abnormal social skills, difficulties in socializing and interacting appropriately with people, rarely initiates conversations, intense need to keep routines, difficulty with transitions, ritualistic behavior, strong auditory and visual memory, difficulty answering,”wh–” questions (such as “what,” “where,” “who,” and “why”), thinks in concrete and literal terms, appears to be deaf, listens selectively

Rett Syndrome

    • Affects mostly girls
    • Stage I: 6-18 months
    • Disinterest in play activities
    • Stage II: 1-3 years
    • Rapid regression, irritability autistic like symptoms
    • Stage III: 2-10 years
    • Severe seizures, mental retardation, hand-wrings, hyperventilation, teeth grinding
    • Stage IV: 10 years plus
    • Scoliosis (curvature of the spine), muscle wasting, rigidity, improved eye contact

Williams Syndrome

    • Hypocalcaemia (elevated calcium levels), hyperacusis (sensitive hearing), overly friendly, excessively social personality, unique strength in their expressive language skills, extremely polite, have greater interest in interaction with adults than with peers, developmental delay learning disabilities and attention deficit, older children and adults often demonstrate intellectual “strengths and weakness” such as speech, long term memory and social skills while other intellectual areas such as fine motor and spatial relations are significantly deficient

Fragile X

    • Hereditary condition which causes a wide range of mental impairment from mild learning disabilities to severe mental retardation, most common in males, females affected and degree of impact is diminished because of the two x chromosomes in females and only one x chromosome in males, behavioral characteristics include attention deficit disorders, speech disturbances, hand flapping, autistic behaviors, poor eye contact, aversion to touch and noise, delayed language development, learning to talk by memorizing phrases instead of putting words together freely, repeating phrases out of context, muddling up “I” and “you”, problems understanding questions especially involving “how” and “why”, difficulty following conversations, having difficulty understanding social situations and expectations, like rigidity to routines, lack imaginative play

Cerebral Palsy

    • Cerebral palsy is not a disease or illness- it is a brain
    • It is non-progressive and causes variable impairments of coordination, tone and strength of muscle action, impacting on postures and
    • Players may be prone to accidents and injuries because of balance and coordination
    • Players may be prone to more frequent dehydration, muscle cramps and

Learning Disability/ADHD

    • May not understand obvious situation that may be dangerous and may not react swiftly to
    • Player may need to be reminded to hydrate and to avoid
    • Player may dress in inappropriate

General Physical Differences

  • The athlete may lag behind their age group in fundamental movement skills such as running and kicking
  • The athlete may have difficulty in controlling movements
  • The mobility and range of movement may be limited
  • Performance of skills may not be in a smooth and efficient manner and may use extra movements and body parts and may appear clumsy
  • Skill performance vacillates from practice to practice
  • May tire easily and have little energy, or may be hyperactive and/or have excess energy; his is difficult to control and causes short attention spans

General Cognitive Differences

  • The ability to understand language may be better than the ability to speak or gesture
  • Needs more time to process information
  • May have difficulty staying focused on task
  • May demonstrate the inability to initiate a movement and put the correct parts into a proper sequence
  • May have difficulty carrying out multiple step directions
  • May require direct instruction
  • May understand language literally

General Social/Emotional Differences

  • May exhibit extreme mood shifts during practice or games
  • May lag behind in social/emotional development
  • May require structure and consistent setting each time
  • May have difficulties in interactive social skills such as taking turns or passing
  • May have difficulties in making friends
  • May have difficulties in recognizing facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice in others

When working with players with disabilities, additional safety considerations are required. Here is a list of some important safety considerations:

  • Identify players with epilepsy, asthma, or seizure disorders, and have knowledge of how to work with them
  • Recognize that TOPSoccer players may tire easily and need shorter practice sessions with longer breaks in-between
  • Players dehydrate at a faster rate and will need to replace fluid more frequently
  • Special precautions for specific skills in soccer, i.e., tackles, heading the ball, etc.
  • Recognize players with poor balance and coordination. They may be more prone to falling and
  • Have emergency evacuation plan available and all coaches aware of the
  • Have a complete first aid kit available at all times
  • Have signed medical release forms and emergency contact information up to date and on hand at all times
  • Require that a parent and/or guardian be present at all practices and/or games

Language is very powerful. Our use of words can convey a positive environment. Some words can enable the athlete while others can perpetuate stereotypes and create false ideas about our athletes.  Words such as “cripple,” “dumb,” “dummy,” “retarded,” “mongoloid,” and “victim” create a negative image of the athlete. In contrast, terms such as “physically disabled,” “hearing impaired,” “mental disability,” “Down syndrome,” and “speech impaired” allow the athlete to be enabled rather than disabled. Remember to put the athlete first. They are an athlete with a disability, not a disabled athlete. A person is not “confined” to a wheelchair or other adaptive equipment. Wheelchairs and adaptive equipment liberate them and allow them to be independent, not confined.

Do not be condescending. Athletes with disabilities are not to be pitied, patronized, or admired. They need to be supported, encouraged, and praised for what they have accomplished. Refer to the athlete by name, not their disability or as a person with a disability. They are athletes first. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Parents will correct you if you misspeak. They will understand if you use the wrong terminology. The language is constantly changing. If you put the athlete first, you will not make a mistake.

Communication is very important to be successful. There are two primary forms of communication: verbal and non-verbal.

Verbal involves the usage of words and is the most common; however, this can be misunderstood. Most coaches can give verbal instructions and information. Too much information can lead to boredom and frustration, especially if the player has communication challenges (hearing, ADD, ADHD, developmental disabilities, etc.). Remember to listen to the verbal communication from the athlete. Using open questions that require a “yes” or “no” response is particularly valuable. Coaches can learn from the player by listening, asking questions, and getting to understand the needs and goals of the athletes.

Non0verbal communication such as gestures, facial expressions and even posture can often be more powerful than verbal communication. Most communication, up to 90%, is non-verbal. Non-verbal communication can include mirroring, body language, and hand gestures.

Visually Impaired Players:

  • Determine what can be seen at the outset; do not assume
  • Ensure verbal instructions are concise and accurate
  • Be aware of influence of environment factors:
    • Amount of light available
    • Change in light (cloud cover)
    • Type of light (sun, fluorescent lights, floodlights)
    • Positioning of player and/or coach in relation to light source
    • Level of background noise (echo or reverberation)
  • Address player by name
  • Do not walk away without telling player
  • Touch player only with permission
  • Use key words and avoid long complicated sentences
  • Be logical and sequential when presenting information
  • Enlist parents/guardians to assist with guiding until coach is able to assist

Hearing Impaired Players

  • Ensure your face is well This will assist player with lip reading or reading sign
  • Face player at all times when
  • Do not chew, shout, or cover mouth when
  • Do not presume the player can lip-read or that they understand every word
  • Close proximity to player will be important to gain their attention, i.e., eye contact, waving, tapping on the shoulder, etc.
  • Be aware of background
  • Keep sentences simple and avoid unnecessary words; establish the meaning of sport-specific language before you start the session and use exact wording each time you give direction
  • Reenforce spoken language with written instructions; allow player time to read instructions before beginning sessions
  • Be aware that player may be able to read lips even when standing at a distance
  • Use an interpreter such as a parent to assist in communicating with player
  • Establish mutually identifiable signs or gestures

Communicating with Other Players

  • Speech impairments should not be automatically associated with learning
  • Establish the extent to which instructions and directions are understood
  • Keep it simple, brief, and concise without being
  • Use age-appropriate
  • If in doubt, ask parent/guardian for assistance with their player

This information is “general” physical differences. This may apply to some or all of the TOPSoccer athletes.

How to start a TOPSoccer Program

  • Identify person/persons willing to coach and administer program
  • Contact State Association Chairperson to discuss questions/information regarding starting a program
  • Set time, place, and date of first parent meeting
  • Secure location
  • Have necessary paperwork ready for parents. Contact State Association to obtain these forms:
    • Registration forms
    • Medical information forms
    • Administrator forms
    • Volunteer sign-up forms
    • Parent guides
    • Any additional forms your league requires
  • Administrator
    • Medical release forms at all practices/games
    • Emergency phone numbers for medical assistance
    • Blank forms for new players/volunteers
    • Sign-in sheet for volunteers
  • Coach
    • Practice plan
    • Back-up practice plan
    • Equipment
    • Patience
    • Understanding
  • Discuss program’s Mission Statement and your objectives
  • Cost of program
  • What will the players receive for the cost?
  • Players with Down Syndrome and AAI
  • Time, day, and place of practice
  • When program will start and end
  • How the program will run:
    • Skills only
    • Games or practices only
    • Games and practices
  • Recruit volunteers
  • Inform parents how coaches will communicate with parents
  • Discuss any additional equipment players will need
  • Obtain phone numbers/emails for all parents
  • Inform parents of coach’s main contact information (email, phone number)
  • Discuss what will be expected of the parents and players
  • Answer questions from parents
  • Equipment
    • Soccer balls, disc cones, first aid kit, goals, pinnies, etc.
  • Uniforms
    • Separated by size
    • Extras for new players
  • Forms
    • Completed forms for players, coaches, administrators, volunteer
      • Check for risk management compliance for adult volunteers
    • Blank forms for new players, volunteers
      • Have information for adult volunteers to obtain their risk management clearance
  • Handout for Parents
    • Coach/administrator contact information
      • phone numbers and email addresses
    • League/program website address
    • Information for parents
      • How will parents be notified of changes?
        • Schedule/snacks
      • Who is the first contact for parents?
        • Parent concerns/comments/suggestions
  • Schedule
    • Dates and times of practices/games including location and times
      • Preliminary schedule with changes to be emailed, or as handouts to parents as information is updated
      • Changes to be posted on league/program webpage
  • Special Events
    • Picture day
    • Any event that falls outside the normal activities of the program
    • End of the year party
  • Snacks

Administrators/Coaches Meeting to plan first practice with players:

  • Determine number of teams that will be formed based on registration numbers
  • Determine which coaches will be designated “head coach”:
    • These coaches will do the actual evaluation at practice
    • These coaches should commit to attend all practices/games
  • Determine how many stations will be set up/who will run each station:
    • Each station should focus on one skill development (i.e. dribbling, passing, shooting, etc.
    • Each station should have a “lead volunteer” to assure the station runs similarly for each group of athletes
    • Each station should have “helpers” to assist athletes, retrieve balls, set up, etc.
  • Designate a Volunteer Director to assign volunteers/buddies to athletes as they arrive:
    • Assign 1-on-1 volunteers to players is possible. If not, determine who needs 1-on-1 assistance and assign remaining volunteers at ratios compatible with skill level
  • Contact parents and remind them of the first day, time and place of practice
  • All coaches, administrators and volunteers should arrive a minimum of 30 minutes prior to start of practice/game
    • Introduce all coaches and volunteers
    • Explain what will be required from each of them
    • Set up practice field
    • Review game plan
    • Assign buddies to player/group/team
    • Remind them to have fun, be patient and learn the players names
    • Stress to them that if they have a problem to seek help
    • Have extra equipment (balls, shin guards) on hand
    • Confer with other coaches about issues/questions
  • Have all player equipment ready to hand out
  • Schedule water breaks
  • End practice/game at designated time
  • Be available for discussions with parents
  • Greet all players and introduce them to their buddy and coaches
  • Start practice/game at designated time
  • Be prepared for the unexpected
    • Things do not always go as planned
    • Adapt when necessary
  • Administrator/coaches/buddies should arrive one (1) hour prior to athletes
    • Confirm proper forms and risk management has been completed for every administrator/coach/buddy (over 18 years of age in CA)
  • Review and set up skill stations
    • Head coaches should explain activity to the volunteer/buddies prior to start of event
  • Assign volunteers to stations
    • Depending on station needs, assign volunteers to assure each station has a lead person, ball retrievers, etc.
  • Assign buddies
    • Have buddies with name tags ready to greet players

Assessment of Players & Needs

  • Skill Levels
    • Ball skills
    • Following directions
    • Comprehension
    • Group participation
    • Frustration
    • Communication
  • Assistance Levels
    • Able to follow instructions with/without assistance
    • Works well in group play
  • Equipment needs
    • Specialized equipment
      • Balls
        • Soft, colored, textured, big, beeper
      • Goals
        • Sizes depending on ability level
      • Additional equipment needs
        • Arena

Assessment Summaries

  • Coach/Administrator Conclusions
    • What type of program
    • Skills only
      • Beginning players with limited experience
      • Majority of players need one-on-one assistance
      • Limited/no interaction of players with others during evaluation
      • Short attention span of players
      • Limited communication skills
      • Easily frustrated
    • Skills with “end of year” game
      • Similar skills as “skills only” program
    • Weekly practice with inter-squad and/or “coaches/parent/volunteers versus player” games
      • Longer attention span
      • Understands and can follow instructions
      • Interacts with others
      • Smaller ratio of player to buddies
      • Beginning to comprehend rules of the game
    • Practice with weekly competition (games)
      • Limited/no buddies needed for players
      • Understand and follow directions
      • Interacts with other players/coach
      • Communication skills
      • Understands modified rules of the game
      • Understands the concept of competition
  • How many teams/groups
    • Number of registered players
    • Number of registered and cleared coaches/volunteers
    • Type of program
  • Volunteers
    • High schools: many require community service for graduation
    • Local soccer clubs
    • Newsletters
    • Competitive clubs
    • Local churches or youth groups looking for community service
    • Siblings
  • Check with your State Association for risk management requirements
  • Cost of program
  • Support from your league
  • How much will your league underwrite the program
  • Cost required for state fees
  • Scholarship
  • Cost of equipment
    • Uniforms
    • Balls
    • Soccer ball bags
    • Trophies/medals
    • Goals
    • Cones
    • Etc.
  • State Chairperson/District Commissioner
    • Does the State Association/District Commissioner supply any equipment to assist in the starting up of a TOPSoccer program?
  • Donations and sponsorships
    • Contact local business to find sponsors
    • Parents may have sources for additional sponsors
  • Flyers for distribution to schools, regional centers, support groups, etc. should include the following information:
    • Coach/administrator names and contact information including phone number and email address
    • Time, date, location, and directions to meeting site
    • General information of the TOPSoccer program
    • What is TOPSoccer?
    • Who is eligible to participate in the program?
    • Time, day, and place of practices/games
    • Cost to register
    • Website information for league
  • Take flyer to school district for approval
  • Pick up approved flyer
  • Get list of schools that have special education classes
  • Ask District how many players are in each school
  • How does the school require the flyers to be distributed?
  • Make copies of flyer, sort and distribute to schools
  • Sort according to directions from school district
  • Confirm location of meeting location
  • Ask TOPSoccer Chairperson to attend meeting
  • Chairperson is there to support you, not run the meeting

Running a TOPSoccer Program

  • Tactile defensiveness: This player does not like being Allow the player to make the first move.
  • Abnormal fears: Encourage the player, but do not force player to participate
  • Violating personal space: Some players do not respect others’ personal space or boundaries. Use buddies and/or verbal prompts as they approach other players/you to redirect player
  • Sensory overload: Some players may show signs of too much stimulation with facial grimacing, vocalizations, or ritualistic movements. Have the player take a break or change player’s activity
  • Tantrums, acting out: A player who is acting out or throwing a tantrum requires a time out. Use parents to
  • Seizures or other medical emergency: Ask parents to step in and/or call 911
  • Have safety issues been addressed?
  • Are individual goals realistic and geared for success of the athlete?
  • Can all the athlete’s needs be met in the session?
  • Are there enough breaks in the sessions to ensure that players are given enough time to hydrate and rest? There are additional questions that must be addressed prior to starting a coaching session.

Remember to be creative, adapt, modify available equipment, and most importantly, have fun.

The Inclusion Spectrum

The Inclusion Spectrum is an activity-centered approach to the inclusion of individuals of different abilities. This spectrum consists of four approaches to the delivery of drills or practice. This approach aims to empower coaches to encourage full participation and involvement by the TOPSoccer athlete.

  • Open Games: Everyone participates with minimal or no adaptation or modification
  • Modified Games: Changes made to promote inclusion
  • Parallel Games: Everyone plays the same game with players organized by ability groups and activity modified to level of each group.
  • Disability Soccer: Athletes with disabilities participate in specific groups, such as the Paralympics
  • Remain upbeat and encouraging; your comfort level will increase as you get to know your players
  • Keep instructions brief
  • Demonstrate skill
  • Present one task at a time
  • Repetition: Repeat instruction and/or demonstration of skills if player has trouble completing task
  • Every player has own ball
  • Encourage lots of player participation
  • Speak in a soothing, positive, calm, and distinct voice
  • Be patient and understanding
  • Adapt techniques to fit the ability of the player
  • Do not take the challenge out of the activity
  • Be flexible
  • Look for signs of fatigue
  • Lots of water breaks
  • Anticipate behavioral reactions
  • Realize that your athletes will have a range of understanding, retention, and communication skills
  • Strive for independence; allow player to learn from their mistakes
  • Talk to your players, not down to them
  • Discipline player if necessary; what is unacceptable behavior in a typical athlete is unacceptable in the TOPSoccer athlete
  • Remember… safety first, fun second, and learning last
  • Look for ways to modify drills to allow full participation by all athletes
  • Communicate with the parent regarding any questions you have about their child; they are the most qualified to assist you in working with their child

Stretching – A circular formation is ideal shape to introduce stretching activities.

Static Stretches – Stretching while still with no vigorous movement. Stretch the major muscles, especially hamstring, groin, thigh, calf, and neck.

Arm Stretches – Stand with feet apart or sit with legs comfortably crossed. Extend arms over the head, bending them at the elbow. Wrap one hand around opposite arm just below the elbow, and gently pull the arm toward the head. Switch arms and repeat.

Neck Stretch – Tilt head gently front, back, and side to side in four directions. Repeat several times; do not roll the neck in circles.

Ankle Stretch – Keep heel on the ground while keeping toes raised high.

Calf Stretch – In a runner’s start position, lock knee, and shift body to lean forward. Rest hands on the front bent knee while leaning forward slightly stretching out the back leg by pressing the sole of the foot flat against the ground.

Groin Stretch – Stand with legs spread, bend one knee and shift body to lean towards that direction. Repeat with other leg. Or sit with the soles of the feet touching, knees bent, grasp ankles and tuck feet as close to the body as possible while at the same time applying gentle pressure on the knees with the elbows to push the knees downward.

Quad Stretch – Lift one leg behind the body, and clasp hand behind ankle.

Hamstring Stretch – Feet together, bend forward, rotate ball with hands around both legs. Or sit with legs parted and outstretched, one leg bent at the knee. Grasp ankle or shoe or straight leg and hold for several seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

Back Stretch – While seated, use the hands to roll a ball around the body and outstretched legs.

Stomach Stretch – Lay on ground on your back, raise hips, hold, and lower hips.

Thigh Stretch – Lie down on one side with legs outstretched, body in a straight line and one leg on top of the other. Support the raised trunk with one arm and use the other hand to grasp the ankle of the top leg and gently pull it back. Roll over onto other side and repeat.

Dynamic Stretches – Stretching while moving, skipping, hopping on one or both feet, running backwards, or sliding sideways.

Knee Kicks – Standing holding the ball in front of the body with arms bent at the elbows. Raise alternating knees to touch the ball.

Heel Kicks – Stand holding the ball behind you, kick alternating feet backward to touch the ball with the sole of the foot.

Hop-Along Knee Kicks – Perform the knee kick while taking little hops with one leg as the other is raised to touch the ball.

Do the Twist – Start walking, holding the ball in front of the body with arms bent at the elbows. While walking, twist the ball to the right, back to the front. and finally to the left.

Twist with the Twist – Do the twist while jogging or hopping.

Partner Passes – Pair up players with buddies or with a volunteer. Have them stand back-to-back with the player holding a ball. Player passes the ball to the buddy overhead, between the legs, and side to side.

Chain Passes – Make a line of players, or players and buddies, standing one behind the other. Pass the ball from the front of the line to the back as with partner passes, except when passing from side to side, alternate sides. The ball passes to one player on the right is passed to the next player on the left.

Dropped Ball – While holding the ball, raise arms high over the head and drop the ball onto the ground. Bend at the waist to pick up the ball.

Throw-Ins – Begin as with “dropped ball,” but then bring the arms behind the head and complete a throw to a partner, who picks up the ball and throws it back.

When introducing new skills, use the “mirror” method first: This is where the coach/buddy demonstrates a skill and then the player copies the movements of the coach/buddy.

Dribbling – Using the instep of foot (not toe), ankle locked, heel down. Have player strike the ball softly using small, controlled steps. Ball should be approximately 2-3 feet in front of player. Encourage player to look up while dribbling.

  1. Set up two cones about 5 yards apart. Player dribbles ball back and forth from each cone.
  2. Player dribbles ball around cones in a figure 8 pattern.
  3. Create a circle using cones. At a given signal, (using whistles, if possible) player dribbles the ball while keeping the ball away from the coaches and/or buddies.
  4. Divide the players into two teams, lining up on opposite sides of a rectangular area. Players, on a given signal, dribble the ball to the other side and then back to their starting point. The team getting all the players back to their starting point are the winners.

Passing – Ankle is locked, foot slightly up at the toe, thigh is turned outward. Connect with the middle of the ball just before the instep and follow through continuing in the direction and pace of the pass.

Outside the Foot Pass – Ankle is locked, foot pointing slightly downward at the toe. Leg swings across the ball and if done correctly, ball will spin when kicked.

Receiving a Pass – Move towards the ball (don’t wait for the ball to come to you). Using either the inside or outside of your foot, the first part of the foot to contact the ball should be withdrawn slightly to take the momentum out of the ball. Ball should not be stopped completely but be under control.

  1. Each player has a partner. Partners line up across from each other, with one having a ball. The ball is passed back and forth between the two players.
  2. Set up multiple grids with cones, assigning four players to a grid, with one ball. Two players are “targets” along the sides and may move back and forth. The other two players play inside the grid, attempting to win possession of the ball and pass it to their target teammates outside the grid. When a pass is completed to the target, a point is scored. Switch roles after a certain time limit or a certain number of points are made.
  3. Divide players into pairs, or partner them with a buddy, one ball and two cones per pair. Set the cones several yards apart and have the players face each other across the cones. When each player completes a pass to each other, the cones are moved closer. The object is to execute a pass through a space that is becoming increasingly smaller. When the ball can longer pass through the cones, the players then try to knock them down.

Shooting – Head is down, ankle locked with foot pointing downward at the toe. Strike the ball with the laces of the shoe. Work on accuracy before trying to do a power shot.

  1. Place one cone for each player spaced apart on the field. Players stand by a cone facing the goal. When the coach dribbles up and gives a signal, players race the coach while dribbling towards the goal. As they approach the goal, players may shoot or pass into the goal.
  2. Place 5-6 balls in a semi-arch in front of a goal. Player shoots the ball, one at a time until all balls have been kicked into the goal.
  3. Using a goal (pug goal will work), divide the goal into three parts using pinnies to divide the players into teams. Player dribbles the ball towards the goal, and shoots. Score is kept by awarding 1 point for a ball made in the center of the goal and 2 points for a ball made in the corners. Designate a spot from which the shot must be taken.
  4. Divide players into small groups, facing each other across the field along opposite touch lines or rectangular grid. Place beach balls in the center of each group. Players attempt to shoot the beach ball over the opposite line using their soccer balls as shooters.

Throw-Ins – Ball must go directly over the head. Both hands must remain on the ball and both feet must be on the ground (not necessarily flat; it is permissible to drag the toe of the trailing foot). Ball is brought back over the head and released into the playing field. Player returns to the field of play as soon as the ball is released.

  1. Players are partnered up with one another. Players stand approx. 5-7 feet apart. One player throws the ball to the other player who will trap the ball. Player will then throw the ball using back to his partner.
  2. Position players, each with a ball, around the center circle. Place a large box or other large target in the center of the circle. Have players practice their throw in techniques while trying to hit the target.
  3. Set up hula hoops at in the center of a rectangular grid. In the center of the hula hoop, place a disc cone with a ball sitting on the disc. Players throw the balls and try to knock the balls off the disc. (This can also be used as a passing drill or shooting drill.) The player is given points for each ball that is hit.

Red Light/Green Light – All players have a ball and dribble in a limited space (or towards the coach). When coach says “red light,” the players must stop the ball and put a foot on top of their ball. When coach says “yellow light,” each player must dribble very slowly. When coach says “green light,” each player dribbles faster. Coach controls this game with frequency of light changes and variety of changes. Once players catch on to this game, add other colors and affix different actions to them (i.e., purple light = hop back and forth over ball; orange light = run around the ball; black light = dance; blue light = hide behind the ball, etc.).

Body Part Dribble –In designated area, coach has all players dribble a soccer ball. When the coach yells out the name of a body part, players must touch that body part to the ball as quickly as possible. Coach should vary body parts and rate at which he calls out body parts. At times, call out body parts consecutively (i.e., tummy, nose, elbow) during one stoppage or call out two body parts at once (i.e., both hands or both feet).

Show Me – As players are playing Body Part Dribble, coach will take opportunity to have each child show the group a skill. The entire group will then take a few seconds to try to copy this skill.

Planets – Set up cones into multiple squares or triangles that serve as planets (or cities). All players must follow coach’s order and dribble into the planet he calls out. Coach can have all players follow same directions or break up teams so they start at different planets, and then have them dribble through the solar system in clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. Coach can have groups dribble in opposite direction through the solar system.

Gates – Set up many pairs of cones (with roughly 2 yards in between pairs) all around the playing area. These pairs serve as gates or many mini-goals. Players each have a ball and must dribble through the gate in order to score. Have players count how many goals they score, and when playing a second time, ask them if they can beat their score by one goal. Coaches can vary this by asking players to dribble with left foot or right foot. If players end up dribbling back and forth through only one goal, set up a rule to protect against it.

Team Gates – Break the group into two teams and have them again dribble through gates but only gates of the same color as their team. Make this a team competition by keeping score for each color. Version 2: If players appear comfortable, challenge them by asking them to do this in pairs. Version 3: Limit balls to three and have teams compete to get the ball and score on goals of their own color.

4 vs 4 to Six Small Goals – In a 30×35 yard grid, each team can score on any of the three goals of the other teams. Version 2: Remove 4 of the goals and play a typical game.

TOPSoccer Buddies

  • TOPSoccer Buddies are enablers; they are volunteers who participate with TOPSoccer players to enable player participation
  • Buddies can be the same age, younger or older, a teenager or an adult
  • Buddies can be a soccer player, someone who works with special needs children, or someone who has no soccer experience, but has a strong desire to enable TOPSoccer players to be successful and to have FUN
  • Monitors and interacts with coaches and/or parents for safety
  • Understands player noises and their likes/dislikes
  • Aware of safety zones around the player
  • Understands what level is needed for a player to be successful
  • Mirror play
    • Assists/creates/directs/guides a player in a FUN but learning environment
  • Continuously monitors the player
    • Fatigue
    • Water breaks
    • Melt-downs

The Buddy’s Role for Players with Physical Needs

  • Creates safe playing situations by creating safety zones around the player
    • Walkers, wheelchairs, crutches
  • Creates opportunities for play
    • Ball retrieval/control
    • Keep the ball close to the player
    • Balance
  • Assists player to get into position to play

The Buddy’s Role for Players with Cognitive Needs

  • Provides instruction directly during play
  • Models the desired skill to teach the player
  • Helps to define the space and “strategies”
    • “We are the blue team.”
    • “We are going in this direction.”

The Buddy’s Role for Players with Behavioral/Sensory Needs or Attention Issues

  • Provide one-to-one (1:1) assistance to model desired behaviors
  • Assists player to focus on the activity
  • Uses a quiet “time out” as needed without being negative
  • Uses Mirror Play or creates space around the player
  • Provides stability in a chaotic environment
  • Guides and directs, often not touching the player directly, but being close in proximity

The Buddy’s Role for Hard of Hearing or Deaf Players

  • Safety awareness
  • Demonstrates the activity
  • Ensures the player understands instructions
  • Uses touch/sign language/pictures to guide and direct
  • Directs the ball to the player for contact and touches

The Buddy’s Role for Partially Sighted or Blind Players

  • Safety awareness
    • Field surface
    • Environment
  • Describes the activity and environment
  • May provide balance and mobility support, with the player holding the Buddy’s forearm
  • Uses voice, hands, and arms to direct and guide
  • Directs the ball to the player for contact and touches on the ball

The Buddy’s Role for Players with Walkers or Wheelchairs

  • Safety awareness
    • Field surface
    • Environment
  • Checks on walker/wheelchair safety (equipment check)
  • Creates opportunity for walker/wheelchair player to participate
    • Ball retrieval
    • Keeps ball close to “feed” the player
  • Pushes wheelchair for participation, if necessary
  • The purpose of the Buddy is to assist the TOPSoccer players, not participate as players themselves!
    • Does not score
    • Can stop a ball from going out of bounds
    • Can shield around their player
    • Can guide their player to the ball
    • Can position the ball for the player
  • Coach/Administrator instructs/teaches buddy prior to the activity
  • Safety for the buddy
    • Risk management
    • Education helps ensure buddies are comfortable and successful
    • Comfort level will increase
    • Relax, smile, have fun
  • Coach should talk to buddy/buddies before and after each session
    • Player and buddy concerns
  • State/Club/TOPSoccer Program web sites
  • State Association/State Office personnel
  • Local Soccer Clubs
  • Soccer Teams: Rec/Select/ODP/High School
  • High Schools
  • Boy and Girl Scouts/church groups/local youth groups
  • Community College
  • Friends of current buddies
  • Community Service Programs
    • High Schools
    • Many require community service to graduate
  • Volunteer fairs
  • Siblings of players

In other words… Ask everyone!!!

  • Buddies must feel what they are doing is helpful and important
  • Recognize accomplishments
  • Be flexible
  • Allow to attend at their convenience
  • Give buddies awards, certificates, recognition for their participation
  • Thank buddies (coaches, parents, and players too) at end of each session