LEXINGTON -- Liv Courson has always dreamed of playing soccer. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers at the Unstoppables Youth League, that dream will soon be coming true.
"Liv, how excited are you about soccer?" her mother Tracy Courson asked in a video posted to the league's Facebook page.
Liv balled her hands into fists and waved her arms through the air as she jumped up and down.
"I'm really excited," she said, gasping between each word. "I am so excited, I want to. . ."
Her words dissolved into squeals of joy.
The Unstoppables Youth League provides opportunities for children with special needs to participate in sports with their typical peers. The league works to adapt sports and eliminate barriers so all children can play.
The organization started its baseball league a few years ago, then expanded its reach with a basketball camp. Now, the league is adding soccer to its rotation with two skills camps this fall. If there is enough interest, the league plans to form soccer teams and a competition schedule in the fall of 2022.
The camp will take place Sept. 18 and Oct 9. from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the Slack Field at Lexington’s Patriot Park. Each player will be assigned a buddy -- a volunteer who accompanies them and provides support when needed.
Players from the Lexington High School girls’ soccer program will serve as buddies, but community volunteers are also welcome to participate.
Campers will learn and practice basic soccer skills including dribbling, shooting and passing.
The camp is free for families and open to children ages 5 to 18 years old. Campers can register for one or both dates.
The camp and soccer program will be run by Roxanne Drueschler, who coaches girls soccer at Lexington High School, and the Lady Lex soccer program.
Drueschler is already researching ways to adapt the sport for children who use a wheelchair or leg braces, possibly by allowing them to hit the ball with a paddle or lever system.
“We’re looking for ways to include all kids -- not just kids that can run,” she said.
Unstoppables founder Lindsay Roberts said she’s excited to add a soccer program to the league.
“I’ve gotten videos of the kids' reactions screaming because they were so excited to get to play soccer,” she said. “I think some of the parents are just as excited as the kids.”
Roberts said kids have asked her for a soccer team for years -- but between work, the baseball league and raising two sons of her own, she didn’t have the time to start it.
“There's no way I could do it without Roxanne taking the reins on it,” Roberts said. “She ran with it. I gave her some direction and she set everything up.”
Drueschler first became involved with the Unstoppables league when her daughter became a part of the baseball team a few years ago.
Her daughter, now 7 years old, has a rare genetic condition. Prior to discovering the Unstoppables league, she worried that her daughter would be injured or left behind on a sports team.
“When we’d go to (her brother’s) sporting events she’d always say ‘My turn?’” Drueschler recalled. “We never felt comfortable letting her do those things because everything is so much faster-paced.”
Tracy Courson had similar concerns for her daughter Liv, who also plays Unstoppables baseball.
"She gets tired pretty quick,” Courson said. “I want her to be able to participate and not have to worry about keeping up or not getting picked to be on the field because she can't run as fast as everybody else or as long as everybody else.”
The opportunity to be on a sports team has been life-changing for both girls.
“It's given her some confidence. She looks forward to it every year,” Courson said. "I just think it's a wonderful opportunity for those who wouldn't typically get to play will get to play and that's huge."
“She absolutely loves going,” Drueschler said of her daughter. “She loves the social aspect, getting to be with other kids.”
“Having a sport available where it doesn’t matter how fast you are, how strong you are, where you have people there to help you -- it’s fantastic,” she said.
The soccer camp has had about 20 sign-ups so far. Drueschler encouraged families who may not have been involved in Unstoppables previously to give it a shot.
“Unstoppables is a family. We’re there for each other on and off the field,” she said. “Your child doesn’t have to meet any criteria. They can just enjoy a family atmosphere of having fun and being active.”
Unstoppables is also looking for team sponsors for the fall 2022 soccer season. Sponsors are individuals or businesses that help cover the cost or t-shirts or jerseys and any adaptive equipment. Volunteers with the skills to build adaptive equipment are also welcome to contact the organization.
For more information, contact Roxanne Drueschler at 419-571-5641 or firstname.lastname@example.org.