BY KIMBERLY WARPINSKI
Arlington, Virginia, September 27, 2011 – On a day when the Nickelodeon Networks went dark to encourage outdoor play, World T.E.A.M. Sports, along with partners DC Soccer and the GotSoccer Foundation, brought together disabled and able-bodied children for an active day of soccer skills training.
At Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play on Saturday, September 24, three sessions of the Soccer Teen Challenge provided mentally and physically disabled children an opportunity to work with able-bodied “buddies” to learn basic soccer skills.
Held at Washington, D.C.’s Ellipse with 50 other Nickelodeon partner organizations, the Challenge included about 70 children with disabilities and 40 “buddies.” Three soccer stations during each session provided opportunities to learn shooting, dribbling, and goal defending. Talented coaches from TOP Soccer ran the drills, which were designed to give the children a sampling of essential soccer skills. Water and snack breaks between drills provided participants a chance to relax before the next session. Proud parents lined the perimeter fencing as they cheered on their children.
As a part of the larger Worldwide Day of Play at the Ellipse, numerous individuals passing by the practice field expressed their support of the Challenge. They noted it was wonderful and inspiring, and felt it was a positive impact on the special needs community. People were drawn to the Challenge not only because of the cheering, but also because the event was doing something not commonly seen. It was one of the few event spaces at the Day of Play where children were actually able to run around as an organized group in a practice arena, similar to a legitimate soccer league practice. Participants worked together to learn how to play a sport from experienced coaches who took into great consideration the special needs of the participants.
The 2011 Worldwide Day of Play was Nickelodeon’s most successful to date. More than 50,000 children and families participated in the event at the Ellipse, the first time it has been held in Washington. Joining the participating children and families were First Lady Michelle Obama, NBA athletes such as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, and numerous Nickelodeon network stars, including teen Victoria Justice.
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