THATCHER – It doesn’t matter who wins or loses, what matters is the experience.
That’s the prevailing attitude of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) VIP soccer team.
Tammy Baldwin coaches the team, which consists of seven special needs individuals.
Saturday, the team played its first game at the soccer fields in Thatcher. The team warmed up, exercised and then played with another team, however, the rules of the game were just a little different.
“We have everybody out on the field,” Baldwin said. “We have the special needs kids and their kids and the goal is they pass to our kids and they help our kids play the game. It’s really similar to the special Olympics unified partner program.”
The VIP team consists of seven players so far, ages 5 to 31. Baldwin said if more people register, the team would separate into two, with an older-player team and a younger-player team.
Baldwin said a goal of the team is to include individuals with special needs so they can experience the game. However, she also hopes having individuals with special needs included and visible in the community will open the minds of the other children playing with them.
“We don’t see as many special needs people out in the community as much as they get older,” Baldwin said. “And I think if these kids get to know them now, in five to 10 years when they are adults they’ll be more visible and more open to disabled people being in our community. That’s always my hope.”
Anyone who would like to support the VIP team can do so by simply showing up to the games. Baldwin added that a sponsor banner would also work well to inform the community.