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Soccer 4 All invites players of all skill levels

Players work with a buddy who stays with them throughout the season to help them reach their personal best in the game.

Submitted

Lisa Stilgenbauer coached competitively with the Dover Soccer Association for seven years. It was fulfilling and she enjoyed it, yet she wanted to do something different.

Last year, after watching a group called Soccer 4 All in Hudson aimed at getting children with physical, developmental or intellectual challenges into the game, Stilgenbauer saw an opportunity to form such a group locally under the wing of the Dover Soccer Association. Kids 4 All of Dover will begin its second season this fall. The games bring new experiences to the lives of the children and their parents.

“We had 13 kids participating last year, and I think most of them will return again,” said Stilgenbauer, who is director of Soccer 4 All. “The whole purpose is to get children into a sport they normally wouldn’t be able to play, and, just as importantly, to give parents the experience of sitting on the sidelines, watching their children having fun.”

Stilgenbauer said parents of children with disabilities normally have to be by their child’s side constantly, helping them with every activity. Soccer 4 All is designed to give them the viewpoint of being a spectator.

“We have buddies assigned to each child — more than one if necessary,” she said. “The buddies stay with the child throughout the session.”

The buddies come from Dover High School.

“Many of them have never worked with children with disabilities before, and we saw many friendships form last year.”

Many of the Soccer 4 All players have Down syndrome or autism. There are few limitations on who can play, as long as they’re able to be mobile in some way.

“We had a boy in a wheelchair last year,” Stilgenbauer said. “We try to treat the child as simply a child, and not a child who is disabled.”

The soccer games are loosely formatted.

“We start with instruction for the first half hour, and then we play soccer,” she said. “We don’t keep score. If the child wants to stop and sit or get a drink, that’s fine. If they want to stop and have a look at the trees, that’s fine.”

The three goals for each game are for the kids to get active, make friends and have fun.

Stilgenbauer said a side benefit for parents is the chance to network with other parents with similar stories.

The program carries a registration fee of $25 per child, which includes a T-shirt and soccer ball. At the end of the season, there is a small banquet for the players and trophies are awarded.

“We couldn’t do it without our sponsors,” Stilgenbauer said. “This year so far, we have Town & Country Veterinary Clinic of New Philadelphia and Dumont’s Sporting Goods of Dover helping out.”

She said she expects other sponsors will help again this year.

An experience last year helped reinforce Stilgenbauer’s efforts in forming the program.

“We were finishing up to leave after playing, when a boy in a wheelchair said to my husband, Rick, who also coaches, “I’m going to practice all winter so I can come back and score a point on you, coach Stilgenbauer.”

Soccer 4 All is open to individuals ages 5-18. Players are broken up into smaller groups for the games.

Games are played at Deeds Field located at 125 Williams Drive NW, Dover, each Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon. Sessions begin Sept. 12 and Oct. 17, with a registration deadline Aug. 15. The league is insured against accidents. Registration and more information are at the website, www.dsasoccer4all.com.

Published: August 5, 2015
New Article ID: 2015708059973