By Nicole Heubusch

TopSoccerwheelchairThe Outreach Program for Soccer (TOPSoccer) is a community based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities. Any boy or girl age five and up in the area that has a mental or physical disability are welcome to join TOPSoccer, which is designed to give children the opportunity to learn and play soccer. The goal of this program is to enable thousands of young athletes with disabilities to become valued and successful members of Florida Youth Soccer and the US Soccer Family.

“We saw a need for a program like this in our area and it has been very successful,” said Ken Muzyk, co-founder of the Brandon area TOPSoccer Program. “There was nothing like this in the area, and when we founded this program in 1998, we had 25 players sign up. Last year we had 155 players, and this year we are expecting about 175 to sign up.”

Kids from all over Hillsborough County come to play soccer, even some from Manatee and Pasco counties come to play too.

“This is not just about playing a sport. This is also a social experience. We have players that have Autism and Down Syndrome play. Some that are in wheelchairs and that are partially blind. This is for any child with any disability. We have players that signed up with us 16 years ago still playing,” said Muzyk.

There is no cost for the families. It is a corporate and individually sponsored program, run by volunteers and supported by donations from local businesses. The Brandon Area Youth Soccer League (BAYSL) has been a proud sponsor and host of TOPSoccer since it began in 1998, and all the games and practices are held on the BAYSL fields on Kings Ave. in Brandon.

TOPSoccerlogoThe 2014 TOPSoccer season will begin at BAYSL on Saturday, September 6 at 9 a.m. and will run through Saturday, November 15. Registration will take place on Friday, August 8 from 6-8 p.m., Saturday, August 9 from 9 a.m.- 12 Noon, Friday, August 15 from 6-8 p.m., Saturday, August 16 from 9 a.m.- 12 Noon, Friday, August 22 from 6-8 p.m., and Saturday, August 23 from 9 a.m.- 12 Noon. Registrations will take place at the BAYSL clubhouse located at 3104 S. Kings Ave. in Brandon. All of the players must show a copy of their IEP (Individualized Education Program) at registration.

Anyone looking to sponsor, volunteer or coach is welcome, and this program is an excellent way for high school students to get community service hours.

For more information, contact Muzyk at 657-5271 or e-mail krmuzyk@mindspring.com, or Fred Englehardt at brandontops@aol.com. Visit brandonsoccer.com for more information and updates.