KING — Stokes County will soon become the seventh in the state to offer special needs children and adults an opportunity to play soccer in a team setting through Northern Triad Soccer League based out of King.
“We’re working with TopSoccer, a program offered through USYSA, United States Youth Soccer Association. Asheville, Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Mebane and Fayetteville are the other clubs that have it, so there’s nothing for this immediate area,” said Bobby Ashworth, longtime coach and board member of Northern Triad.
Ashworth first became aware of the need for this type of program when he noticed one of his players had a sibling with Down Syndrome sitting on the sidelines.
“I kept wondering if there was something for him to do or play.”
A few months later he saw a segment on the news about a baseball team out of Kernersville specifically for special needs children and he knew he wanted to replicate it, but with soccer.
“I had no clue that something like this already existed,” he said. “I spent some time researching it and found TopSoccer and spoke with a woman who runs a successful program in California.”
The representative asked Ashworth, “How many do you have to have for this program to exist?”
After a slight pause he said, “One.”
Although Ashworth’s original goal was to offer something for the child he’d seen sidelined months earlier, he quickly learned there were many others waiting for a chance to lace up and play a sport.
“Even before we really announced what we were doing, I started getting Facebook requests from people I didn’t know and emails from mothers. It’s a unique thing and I’m really elated from the responses I’ve seen so far.”
The Northern Triad Soccer Club works with athletes from Surry and Stokes, but Ashworth said this program is open to Forsyth and neighboring counties.
“We want to make it accessible for any special needs children or adults. We want them to feel included and a part of this organization,” he said.
Volunteers are already asking to be part of the program which will allow each athlete to be assigned a “buddy”, a one-on-one helper throughout the practice.
“I had some kids I’ve coached over the years reach out to me and want to join what we’re doing and better our community, which was really neat to see,” Ashworth said.
The Wake Forest soccer program also rallied around the program and offered their support on opening day.
“I think the kids will love it.”
The four-week session is aiming to begin in October, and the official start date will be determined in the next two weeks. It’s slated to offer skill stations and basic instruction full of exercise, fun, and togetherness. A Northern Triad Soccer jersey will be provided to each athlete and the overall cost is $20. For more information about the upcoming soccer program contact Bobby Ashworth at 336-972-8374 or by email at Bashworth1@windstream.net
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter @AmandaTDodson.