The Goal This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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When I began high school, participating in a community service project was really encouraged. However, I recall placing that pink volunteer log into my massive backpack and forgetting all about it. A month later, I injured my ankle for the seventh time and was told I couldn't play soccer. I was heartbroken, but I decided to do the next best thing: help others learn to play.

We are a “soccer family” – with the soccer magnet on our minivan and dirty cleats flung about the house. However, soccer was always difficult for my older brother Adam. He was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as a kid and often felt ostracized. The game has always been a means of bonding for my father and me, but it was difficult for Adam to get involved. During freshman year, when I could no longer play, I began to understand Adam's point of view; I, too, felt excluded.

My parents discovered TOP Soccer, a league for children with special needs. Children are paired with volunteer “buddies” every Saturday. The buddies remain with their players for the season, assisting and motivating them. The buddy system builds friendship and camaraderie, and it fosters a fun environment.

Needless to say, my brother (as a player) and I (as a buddy) got involved immediately. We have been a part of TOP Soccer for four years now, and our roles have evolved. Adam has risen in the age groups as one of the best players on his team. I have become a Buddy Captain and oversee an entire team. Even my mom helps. Not only is TOP Soccer an amazing organization to help children with special needs, but it has become a new means of bonding for my family.

Over time, I found more ways to get involved in soccer and my community. I referee games and volunteer as a coach with my dad for a local league. This will be my third year coaching the same team. My involvement with soccer organizations has allowed me to maintain a close rapport with my family, help others in the community, and indulge my love for the game.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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