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Soccer4All makes soccer accessible to children of various skills

Children with special needs enjoy sports like soccer. A new program in Dover allows kids with varying skill levels to play soccer, make friends and have fun.


Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and thanks to efforts by Dover resident Lisa Stilgenbauer, it is now accessible to even more children in the region. Registration is now underway for the fall season of Soccer4All.

Soccer4All is the Dover Soccer Association (DSA) league for children with physical and/or mental disabilities. It is the first season for the league. The program is open to any child 5-15 years old with a development delay or disability, including but not limited to attention deficit disorder, autism, hearing impairment, sight impairment, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, seizure disorder and spinal bifida. Players do not need to be Dover residents in order to participate.

“I believe there is a need for this league in our community,” said league organizer Stilgenbauer. “My sister and brother-in-law started a league like this in Hudson, and it inspired me to do something here in our community.”

“We have three children and two of them played soccer,” said Jeff Knoblauch, Stigenbauer’s brother-in-law. “Our special needs child wanted to play, too. I went to Hudson United, our local soccer organization, and they immediately said yes to a program for special needs kids with no hesitation.” That was in 2008. The prgram attracts 40-50 players each spring and fall sessions and an equal number of volunteers.

The Soccer4All program has three primary goals: to get children active, help children make friends, and to have fun. “It also gives parents an opportunity to enjoy watching their children as well as develop friendships themselves,” said Stilgenbauer. “Parents of children with special needs need more opportunities that are affordable and recreational.”

Soccer4All utilizes young volunteers called soccer buddies. Buddies are middle and high school students who assist the Soccer4All players and coaches. In many cases, players are paired with a buddy to offer individualized direction and support. While it is a benefit if buddies are soccer players, it is not necessary. “Buddies do not have to be soccer players. It does help, but we’ll work with them,” said Stilgenbauer.

Soccer4All begins Sept. 6 and runs through Oct. 11 at Deeds Field, 125 Williams Drive NW in Dover. Teams meet every Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon and spend the first half hour practicing while the second half hour is reserved for game play.

Players are grouped according to skill level and age. A coach is assigned to each group. The size of the group depends on the number of children that sign up for the session. At least one parent or legal guardian needs to be present at all times for every session without exception. The registration fee is $25 and includes a jersey, soccer ball and a participation award at the end of the season.

Deadline to register is August 1.

For more information, email lmstilgenbauer@yahoo.com or call Lisa Stilgenbauer at 330-343-6011. Email will be the most utilized form of communication. Visit www.dsasoccer.net for more information about the Dover Soccer Association.

Mail registration forms, a copy of player’s birth certificate and a check payable to the Dover Soccer Association to:

Dover Soccer Association

313 E. 13th St.

Dover, Ohio 44622

Published: June 11, 2014
New Article ID: 2014706119993