Interview with US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer’s New Leader
There are those of us who watch and wonder in amazement at the good deeds of others, then there are those of us who just make a difference. Being part of a TOPSoccer program makes a difference and we salute everyone who works hard to share the joys of the beautiful game. We wanted to discover what motivates the new Chair of TOPSoccer — so we asked a few questions!
This is the First Article in a New Feature Series on TOPSoccer
TOPSoccer — which stands for The Outreach Program for Soccer — is a community-based soccer program from US Youth Soccer (USYS) that creates a safe and fun environment for athletes with physical, developmental, and cognitive disabilities so they can participate in organized sports. With 3 million soccer-loving members, USYS is the largest youth soccer organization in the USA.
“Establishing a TOPSoccer program is an opportunity for all clubs/associations to foster an inclusive environment and promote a culture of community engagement,” said Tom Condone, USYS Director of Grassroots and Player Development.
And, it is just a good idea.
People often wonder what a TOPSoccer program looks like and one of the many unique features of TOPSoccer is that each local program is different and is created around the needs of the participants. TOPSoccer athletes are placed on teams according to ability, not age and while the length of most programs run 6-8 weeks, the durations vary and the programs can have very modest beginnings.
Dave Robinson is the new Chair of the US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Committee, and along with the East Region’s Ed Demulder, Midwest Region’s Shawn Danhouser, and West Region’s Sandy Castillo, he works tirelessly to help share the joys of soccer with the thousands of children with disabilities who can benefit from the TOPSoccer program. Robinson, who also runs the South Region, has been involved with TOPSoccer for years and has recently assumed the role of Chair, taking over the leadership from Ray Robinson.
With an aggressive goal to grow and expand the reach of TOPSoccer within the next few years, Robinson has a clear focus on the future.
“We are fortunate to have Dave lead our TOPSoccer team.”Dr. Pete Zopfi, the Chair of US Youth Soccer.
“Dave’s compassion and commitment to our special kids with special needs represent the highest level of teamwork and inclusion,” said Dr. Pete Zopfi, the Chair of US Youth Soccer.
SoccerToday Interview With TOPSoccer’s New Chair Dave Robinson
Diane Scavuzzo: Why did you want to become the national chair of US Youth Soccer’s TOPSoccer program?
Dave Robinson: Ever since I started my local TOPSocer program in 2007, it has held a huge piece of my heart and never let go.
I really want to help spread the joy I receive as the manager of a local program, and the best way to do this is to be a leader and do what I can to increase participation from coast to coast.
I have a strong marketing and operations background and have some great ideas of how we can double or triple our participation numbers in the future.
Diane Scavuzzo: What inspires you?
Dave Robinson: The TOPSoccer athletes inspire me, as they work hard and persevere to overcome their various adversities as they play soccer in our program.
Their smiles and laughter fill up my emotional gas tank.
The TOPSoccer Buddy volunteers also inspire me, as they give back to their community and do a fantastic job of establishing personal relationships with their assigned athlete.
The spark of these new relationships typically turns into a full-on blaze after a few weeks, and everyone benefits from the program.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many TOPSoccer programs are there in USYS?
Dave Robinson: Approximately 500.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many would you like?
Dave Robinson: As we unfold our USYS strategic plan, the goal is to have 1,000 programs by 2025.
Diane Scavuzzo: How many TOPSoccer players participate currently? How many do you believe could possibly participate?
Dave Robinson: Approximately 15,000.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are the top three reasons to have your child participate?
Dave Robinson: TOPSoccer is great for a number of reasons. It provides social skills as athletes interact with their coach, buddy, and other athletes in a group setting and learn proper behaviors.
It gives them opportunities to engage in physical fitness, by participating in a number of fun activities. Lastly, there is a sense of teamwork, by learning to trust their teammates and collaborate to achieve a common goal.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is it complicated, with a lot of red tape, to start up a program in an area?
Dave Robinson: Certainly, having someone lead to “champion” the TOPSoccer program is a crucial piece.
Reach out to your local community members; contact your local schools and your local club/association. Your local state association can also be a valuable resource in learning how to develop interest, as well as provide guidance, support, and education.
Coaches and Buddies are the very important volunteers to your TOPSoccer program as they help your players be successful. Look within your local club and schools to find these key individuals.
The unique thing about TOPSoccer is that each program is different and created around the needs of the participants.
Additionally, TOPSoccer athletes are placed on teams according to ability, not age. Above all, keep it simple and keep it FUN!
Diane Scavuzzo: The ‘buddy’ system — what are the top three benefits for the soccer player?
Dave Robinson: The TOPSoccer Buddy, creates secure playing situations by creating safety zones around the player, monitors/interact with coaches and parents for the players’ safety, demonstrates the skill if needed, and most importantly, have FUN.
The TOPSoccer Buddy is a rewarding experience and is truly a role model and mentor for the player.
Diane Scavuzzo: Who has earned the TOPSoccer Buddy of the year award in the last few years?
Dave Robinson: We are very proud of players who chose to become a TOPSoccer Buddy. Here are the recipients of the TOPSoccer Buddy of The Year Award for the last three years:
- 2017: Abbey Wills, Amissville, VA, Piedmont TOPSoccer
- 2018: Julia Bulgarelli, Avondale, PA, Delaware Rush
- 2019: Jessica Lee, West Hempstead, NY, West Hempstead Chiefs TOPSoccer