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CYSO implements program for young athletes with special needs
They wear uniforms, shin guards and cleats like every other recreational player.

They practice once a week and compete on Saturdays at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.

Beginning this season, Ceres Youth Soccer Organization will implement a training and team placement outreach program for young athletes with special needs between the ages of 4-19.

US Youth Soccer, the nation's largest youth sports organization, started TOPSoccer (The Outreach program for Soccer) in 1991 to provide younger players with mental or physical disabilities an environment filled with meaningful learning, developmental and physical participation opportunities through the game of soccer.

Approximately 56.7 million people, including more than 5 million children and teenagers with physical or mental conditions, had a disability in 2010 according to a comprehensive report released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"We want to share the sport with everybody," CYSO President Bryan Hays said. "We're excited."

CYSO's TOPSoccer program has an enrollment size of two.

The season, which got underway on Sept. 8, runs five weeks.

Oversized soccer balls will be used.

Games will be played on the complex's six-and-under field.

Player participation and development are key elements of the program as players are placed on teams according to ability and not by age. TOPSoccer is designed to improve the overall fitness, self-esteem and social skills of America's youth through the sport of soccer.

"They all warm up together, do drills together and scrimmage together," Hays said. "It's a really cool program."

Tracy Peart will oversee CYSO's TOPSoccer program.

"I could not think of a job that is more rewarding," she said. "I couldn't do any of this without God. I get my strength from him. I'm so blessed."

Peart has worked with children with special needs for 24 years.

"The TOPSoccer program is so great," she said. "It doesn't matter what disability you have. You'll be able to play. The kids will have fun. Hopefully, we get more signups. We just got to get the word out so people know about it."

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