COVINGTON — TOPSoccer is the Covington Family YMCA’s new program for 6- to 18-year-old athletes with physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities.

The Covington Family YMCA has been responding to local community needs for over 35 years. “Last spring the Y’s staff and members were standing outside waving to the Special Olympics parade participants,” said Janette Scharf, Covington Family YMCA sports director. “We stood there and collectively thought that the Y needs to do something for this community of people who are so special and need opportunities to take them places.”

That something is TOPSoccer; a program developed by U.S. Youth Soccer and offered throughout the nation by local organizations.

“Soccer works well because it is not super complicated and kids can just run,” said Scharf. “No one has to wait to take a turn; everybody can always be moving.”

The program continues with sessions every Sunday from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The last session is Oct. 27. Families are encouraged to enroll their daughters and sons by stopping by the Covington Family YMCA, 2140 Newton Drive, Covington.

TOPSoccer sessions are filled with drills and activities designed to keep the athletes moving, having fun, and learning the game. Activities are customized to each athlete’s abilities. “Whether they realize it or not, they are learning and using their muscles, brains, and everything,” said Scharf. “It is really neat to see.”

There is lots of support and encouragement. Though Scharf and Danielle Mikula oversee the program as coaches, each athlete is individually supported by one or more volunteer “buddies.”

“Buddies help the kids with the drills and activities,” said buddy Gavin Mask. “We make sure they are safe and having fun.” Scharf found a cadre of buddies through word-of-mouth and an email message to YMCA members.

For more nfomration contact the Covington YMCA’s Executive Director Louly Hay-Kapp at 770-787-3908 or

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Covington native and proud Valdosta State alumna, Hunter has previously worked with The Covington News and Valdosta Daily Times. She started working for Rockdale/Newton Citizen in June 2018.

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