Clawson team makes soccer accessible for every child

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

By the time Amber Reynolds made her third goal during her first game for TOPSoccer in Clawson, her post-celebration dance move turned into a split right there on the field for the crowd to cheer.

Amber Reynolds celebrates a goal.

“It feels really good to get a goal,” Amber, 11, said Sunday taking a break off field. “I think I have 400 now.”

Reynolds is a member of TOPSoccer, a community-based program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by youth soccer association volunteers in Clawson.

On Sunday, she and about eight other players took to the field for their first game of the season. The group formed in Clawson in the fall of 2015 with weekly practices and ended the season with their first and final game at Clawson’s City Park Stadium.

Organizers say the program, which has a handful of teams statewide, is designed to bring the opportunity of learning and playing soccer to any boy or girl who has a mental or physical disability.

Amber’s mother, Kim Reynolds, said the program allows Amber to participate on a team where players work on skills, teamwork and sportsmanship and take their time doing it.

“It’s just amazing. It makes her feel part of a team,” Kim said. “It’s heartbreaking for a kid who wants to be part of a team and can’t.”

On Sunday afternoon, TOPSoccer team members lined up on the football field for Clawson High School and ran through a tunnel of cheering arms of Clawson High cheerleaders and soccer players as they spilled onto the field to begin their first game.

Parents drive from around Metro Detroit to be a part of the team, which allows kids ages 8-15 with special needs to play, said Rachel Vento, one of several team organizers.

Parent Penny Cummings of Sterling Heights watched her son Quinn, 5, make the first goal of the game.

“He loves it. He was pumped this morning,” Cummings said. “It’s as rewarding for us as it is for him.”

Each child on the Clawson team has a different disability, Cummings said, yet coach Thomas “Ninja” Perry is able to connect with each child.

Perry said Sunday the rainy skies cleared, and everyone was having a good time and practicing their soccer skills.

“The more the kids are engaged, the more you want to do it. It’s nice to give them an outlet like this,” said Perry, a well-known youth coach in the Clawson area. “We are all out here to have fun.”