PlaySoccer Fall 2012 : Page 22

Changing ONE GOAL AT A TIME BY | melissa bean sterzick lives, T eam sports are one of the defining experiences of childhood. Weekday practices, Saturdays on the field, victory, defeat and a sense of purpose and accomplishment are all part of growing up. AYSO provides that experience for thousands and thousands of kids across the country, including a large number of children with disabilities who play on Very Important Player (VIP) teams. VIP teams are made up of three or more players and can be organized based on mobility or ability, gender, age or size, according to the needs of the Region. Each athlete who needs one has a buddy on the field to offer support and encouragement during play. [ “ 22 Jamie says. “She loves it. Her friends have their club volleyball, and she’s got AYSO soccer. She’s just like all the other kids. She feels like she is a part of something.” It was difficult for the BECOMING “NORMAL” Meyers to find a team sport Jamie and Chuck program for their daughter. Meyer’s daughter Lucy “It’s complicated to get started playing VIP in that many kids together AYSO Region 69 in Pacific with that kind of dynamic. Palisades, Calif., two years You can’t hire someone to ago. Lucy is 13 and has do that,” Jamie says. “With VIP, she’s learning in “Our motto for the program is ‘The buddies are a really safe beautiful, the sun is always shining, and the environment score is always tied.’” how to do sports and FALL 2012 cerebral palsy. Her parents say VIP has changed Lucy’s life. “Her friends were all involved in team sports. Well, Lucy can’t do that, so she has always been a spectator. With AYSO she gets to do the warm up like a regular team player. She has a jersey—and the jersey is critical. She has practice. The buddies are just amazing with her,” ] ” how to be on a team. It’s so important for development. She is learning how to pass the ball and that it’s not just all about her—it’s about the team. If you could see her face, it says it all.” Lucy says she loves soccer and plans to play for a long, long time. “Soccer is awesome. I just like being with the kids and helping them and kicking the ball and being who I am. It is a lot of running, but it’s fun. I just love it,” she says. SHARING THE EXPERIENCE Coach Don is a big part of the great experience Lucy is having with VIP.

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