“Green light!” The director bellowed from the center of the soccer field.
Buddies leaned down to their players and encouraged them to “Go! Go! Go! Kick your soccer ball and go!”
And the players, with the biggest smiles on their faces began to play. Some kicked their ball so hard they had to chase it across the field. Some were cautious and pushed the ball gently with their foot. Some picked up their ball with their hands and began to run the length of the field.
Declan was a hard kicker. So excited by his buddies encouraging him, he kicked, jumped up and down and then ran.
And with the “Red light!” call, buddies leaned over and showed the players how to stop the ball.
And we could see Declan crouch down, with a BIG smile on his face waiting for the next….
And off he went.
Thankfully, when I shared with a friend how EXCITED Declan was for soccer, and that he had decided he wanted me to sign him up, she referred me to the High-5 soccer program.
The High-5 soccer program is for kids with cognitive, physical, developmental, social and/or emotional disabilities. And for kids that want to HAVE FUN playing soccer.
When the kids arrive, they are paired with a buddy. Someone who is going to make the child the center of their universe for the next hour. And boy, they buddies do a great job with this!
Declan had various buddies on his trips to the soccer fields, and he enjoyed playing soccer with all of them.
There are three activities always in progress on the field, and the players rotate through the activities. Declan did not want to do the activities. Except for one. He thought kicking the ball and knocking down a bunch of buddies was the funniest thing ever – the buddies really had all the kids laughing with that one!
If he was not playing in that activity, Declan chose to run up and down the field kicking his soccer ball. And his buddies were A-OK letting him do whatever he wanted to do.
Declan’s other favorite activity? And the end of every session the buddies formed a tunnel. A HIGH-5 tunnel! And high-5’d every player as they walked through. Who wouldn’t feel good after that?
But the BIGGEST smile came on the last day when Declan got his first trophy. Declan has sat and watched his brother and sister come home with loads of trophies. This time, this one was for HIM. And he felt really special.
In a season of thankfulness, I am thankful for my friend who referred me to this program. I am thankful for the coaches that created this program – a program that gives these kids a place to play soccer and have fun. I am thankful for the buddies that come out and dedicate their time and energy to making these kids feel special.
I know Declan had a blast, and felt great. And he is already excited to play again in the spring!