Sunday, March 15, 2009

Soccer Player and Mother Are On the Move To Get Youth Soccer Program Off the Ground

The final article will be MUCH shorter, my editor assures me. Phew, that's a relief. I'll post the link when it's finally on the site.

West Morris Mendham High School Sophomore and soccer player, Ben Saliterman, can add one more bullet to his list of titles pretty soon—coach and organizer for an upstart soccer program for kids with disabilities.

“I wanted to start it [the program] up because I wanted to give back to kids who never had a chance to play soccer with others.”

The program in question is called TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer), which has been a national program since 1991.

TOPSoccer, which is under the umbrella of programs from the non-profit and educational organization, US Youth Soccer, is a community based program that is designed to meet the needs of children with physical and/or mental disabilities.

“I thought it was a good idea because there wasn’t a program like it in Mendham,” says Ben.

That’s not to say that TOPSoccer doesn’t exist in the state of New Jersey. It just doesn’t exist here.

“I was surprised that there weren’t more [soccer] clubs around here,” says Ben’s mother, Megan Saliterman, who originally informed Ben about TOPSoccer a few months ago after talking about it to a friend of hers in Connecticut, where they originally lived before moving up to New Jersey three years ago, “[But] If this [starting up TOPSoccer in the area] was easy to do in Morris County, it would have already been done by now.”

Currently, Ben and his mother are splitting responsibilities to get this program on the road. Ben is currently reaching out to get volunteers, as every child on the team, ranging from 7-13, will need a buddy to help them out.

“I asked the varsity coach of Mendham soccer to forward it [the call for volunteers] to others,” says Ben, “and I already have five or six people interested in helping.”

His other responsibility is acquiring donations, which he will be doing the old fashion way—going door to door.

“Ben’s going to be knocking on doors at soccer shops, “Megan says on how Ben will receive the funds, “and I’ll be going with him.”

Megan’s job is to get the actual players themselves for the team. She’s been going through many different avenues to get the word out on the street.

“I emailed the rec department, special services and the superintendent,” Megan says of her outreach to get players, which started in the Mendham, Chester, and Long Valley areas and has since branched off to areas like Morristown and beyond. “Our goal is to get 15 to 20 kids.”

Currently, the mother and son team have five.

“We’re looking to get kids who would like to play soccer on a Saturday morning for six weeks,” says Megan.

Getting the actual number of kids is crucial though as there’s a time frame as to when they can get this going, as the soccer season is fast approaching.

“Spring is almost here,” says Ben, who will be coaching the clinical team with his junior coaching license, “and [the season] starts up in late April or May.”

Not only that, but without knowing what disabilities some of these kids might come with, they also don’t have a definite field.

“We haven’t gotten any official backing from West Morris Soccer Club,” says Megan, “although they are very interested in the program and have offered to find us available field space.”

Still, outside of an actual field and the fifteen other players needed to start the team, they’re still also missing one other key component.

“With the kids with disabilities, if one of them ever collapses, they’d need medical help,” Ben says, “[So] we need a medical advisor or a marshal.”

Even with all of these missing pieces, though, Megan is still assured that it will come together in the end.

“I’m highly confident it will work,” says Megan.

If you are interested in helping out or might know a disabled child who would be interested in the program, please contact Megan at or call her at (973) 543-0304


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