The Brandon TOPSoccer program got its start in 1998 when a few soccer dads had an idea. Their kids played recreation and competitive soccer and they wanted to give kids with special needs the chance to play too. They put their idea into action and the first season of TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) in Brandon was held that year with about 25 special needs boys and girls. Word spread quickly and the number of players increased every year to over 150 athletes. This made the program among the largest in the state.
On August 7, The Florida Youth Soccer Association (FYSA) honored two of the founders at their annual meeting held at JW Marriott in Orlando. Ken Muzyk and Fred Englehardt were presented with the FYSA TOPS Volunteers of the Year award for their efforts in starting and managing the program for 23 years.
While presenting the awards, FYSA commented, “Their hard work and organization efforts for the TOPSoccer program shows every season when the athletes take the field. The West Florida Flames will be forever thankful to these individuals for everything they have done for the TOPSoccer program.”
At the award ceremony, Muzyk was quick to point out that the program was successful due to the many volunteers who contributed. This included Pat Hendryx and Tricia Carson, current board members; Carlos Montero, concessions; along with team coaches and high school students who assisted as ‘on-field buddies’ to the players. Thanks to donors and sponsors, players received uniforms, cleats, trophies and food free of charge. Gary Rach and Joanne Quinn of the West Florida Flames allowed the use of their soccer fields and concession stand.
Muzyk said, “It’s been a wonderful program for the special needs community. We couldn’t have done it without the involvement of hundreds of volunteers over the years.”
Due to the ongoing virus situation, continuing the program as in previous years became unrealistic. For this reason, the program has been modified and will now be managed directly by the West Florida Flames organization. Those interested in more information on the program can call 684-5948.