Challenger Soccer kicks off in West Milford

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  • West Milford has kicked off a Challenger Soccer program that teaches kids with special needs basic sports skills. PHOTO PROVIDED

West Milford Youth Soccer started a new “Challenger Division” for children with special needs.

The program consists of teaching the kids from age five to 17 basic skills such as dribbling, kicking, passing, and shooting.

Then they are learning the concepts of game play and have begun scrimmaging in their third session.

The program is scheduled for six sessions on Saturday afternoons and will be culminated with a game, pizza party and trophy ceremony on Oct. 28.

During the fourth and fifth session; West Milford Youth Soccer intends to integrate two teams from their fall leagues and divide those players along with the Challenger special needs kids, into a truly inclusionary game of typical and special needs children.

“This program actually achieves two strategic goals of West Milford Youth Soccer in one effort” said Dan Trout – President of WMYSO and whose son is a participant with Down Syndrome. “We wanted to broaden our offering to get more kids, playing more soccer, more of the time; and also build a bridge to the High School Soccer Program in town. We have 18 high school players from both the boys and girls soccer teams completing community service hours by volunteering their time to help out. Our special needs kids are learning from some of the best soccer players in town and I know the high school players are mutually rewarded by the joy they are bring to these kids…it’s quite amazing”

There are 25 special needs kids in the program and each week is seems one or two more show up. The 30-plus volunteers who help out weekly speaks volumes about the West Milford community.

Parent and volunteer coach Dan Trout said he wanted to recognize three people who were critical in making the program happen: Tim Roetman, director of Parks and Recreation, who in the past started Challenger Soccer in Livingston and created a blue print of how to roll the program out; Kristi Clave, WM Special Olympics coordinator, who trained all volunteers and advised on the on field activities; and Bill Kane, principal of the Maple Road School, a soccer coach, school administrator and parent of a child with special needs . Kane, Trout said, was the prefect advocate to providing guidance for both planning and on field activities.

"This program is here to stay and we are excited to see where it grows from here," said Trout, president of West Milford Youth Soccer Organization.

Said Bill Weiss, a volunteer coach and father of a Challenger participant: “For years Ben had to stand on the sidelines unable to participate and watch his brother and sister’s Rec and Travel soccer games; Now Ben beams as he says ‘Get in the car…it’s time to go to MY soccer game.'”

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