SYAA soccer plans to meet special needs
Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The Suffolk Youth Athletic Association is known for providing athletic opportunities for a large number of youths in the area, but this fall, it will expand its soccer offerings to an unreached group.
SYAA deputy soccer commissioner Nestor Andino is helping lead efforts to include a program for athletes with special needs.
Whether the youth has autism, Down syndrome or another disability, Andino said the program will be an avenue for anyone with special needs under the age of 19 that wants to and is able to come out and play.
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Creating this opportunity is particularly important to Andino because he has a 12-year-old son, Nathaniel, with autism who has expressed an interest in soccer.
“Now that I’m really involved in SYAA, I’ve started thinking about the program,” Nestor Andino said.
He started discussing the possibility about three to four months ago with Derk Gregory, a soccer coach who also has a son with autism. Those conversations bore fruit, and registration is now open for the fall season of the Athletes with Special Needs division.
Games will work very similar to the way they do for 3-on-3 contests. There will be no throw-ins, but rather kick-ins. There will be no goalies and no one will be allowed inside the goal box. The U8 fields at the SYAA Football Club on 432 Kings Fork Road will be used.
Andino said each game will last a maximum of 30 minutes, but “it really depends on the kids.”
The program will also feature a buddy system. Each youth with special needs will have a buddy with them on the field to help them and make sure they are safe.
“I’ve already had a few volunteers of regular soccer players that want to help out the kids with special needs,” Andino said.
One of those volunteers is Nathaniel’s twin brother, Ryan, who has been playing at SYAA for years.
Gregory, who will manage the program, is excited for the chance that his 6-year-old son Aiden Gregory and the other athletes with special needs will have.
“I think it’s just a great opportunity for them to work within groups, because a lot of times they tend to be by themselves,” he said. “Just being able to work as a team, I think, is going to help them immensely.”
Other programs in the state like this one have adult participants. Andino said for now, SYAA’s program will be limited to anyone under 19, “but in the future it could grow so we do something for adult players.”
Four players have already signed up, and online registration is possible by visiting www.LeagueLineup.com/SYAA-soccer and clicking on the link on the right-hand side for the “Fall 2014 Soccer Registration Form.” The price per player is $85, and registration will be open through late August.
To register in person, there will be a sign-up opportunity from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at the SYAA Football Club.