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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Caught in the ACT

    <ong>Team Tibet

    The basketball courts in Cowling Gymnasium are packed on Sunday afternoon. Soccer balls ping-pong around the gym, passing quickly from foot to foot. A ball ricochets into the net, setting off a cascade of cheers and high-fives. No one is keeping score, but each goal is celebrated with the intensity of a World Cup soccer match. The players run up and down the gym, chasing after the ball and heading to the net. Unlike a traditional soccer game, though, every player on the field has a personal coach by their side: a Carleton volunteer dedicated to increasing access to sports for Northfield youth.

    The program, called TOPSoccer, is a soccer team for disabled youth in Northfield. TOPSoccer fills a niche for disabled kids looking for extracurricular activities. The program works based on a one-on-one coaching system, providing athletes the attention they need to build skills and learn team play. Throughout the practice, each athlete works together with one or two Carleton volunteers. The athlete then learns by example and gets guidance suited to their needs. The coach is also a model for communication, celebrating the athlete’s successes and helping him/her overcome frustrations.

    TOPSoccer started in Northfield just last year, and hopes to grow through the upcoming years. The TOPSoccer program at Carleton is the first ever winter program, which will run a 10-week season that matches up with the Carleton trimester schedule. The coaches primarily come from the varisity and JV soccer programs at Carleton, though any willing volunteers with soccer experience are welcome to join in. As the program proceeds, the coaches will learn how to run their own practices without the help of TOPSoccer staff, gaining valuable insight into the unique circumstances of coaching disabled youth. As the smiles around the court made clear; however, the learning is fun for everyone involved.

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