Southwest Minneapolis resident Scott Raver is probably one of the few soccer coaches you might meet who cares more about having a good time than about his team's win/loss ratio.
Raver volunteers his summer evenings coaching the Blues TOPSoccer team, part of a community-based soccer program for children and adults above the age of 8 with physical and/or mental disabilities called the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association. It’s a group that simply enjoys playing with each other, coaches say. Wins and losses come secondary, and some nights, a team lends some of its players to the opposition so the kids receive more playing time.
“It’s just one big happy group,” fellow coach Jeff Mueller said. “We cheer for both sides.”
For Raver, who has coached TOPSoccer for 9 years, the chance to spend Sunday nights teaching the game and bonding with the players and their families has been a continuously rewarding experience.
“It’s great when I see certain players improve, just because it’s often about confidence,” Raver said. “That physical confidence and feeling of well-being. Seeing a person who is really tentative on the field blossom out there is really neat.”
Each week from early-June to mid-August, eight teams from five TOPSoccer locations near the metro meet at the Lexington-Diffley Athletic Fields in Eagan to play a game or two. The Blues squad draw 43 players from the southwest metro area—with the majority coming from Edina, Eden Prairie and Shakopee—and break into three teams each week to compete. Approximately 120 players in the Twin Cities area compete on TOPSoccer teams, including Coon Rapids, Stillwater/Lakeland, Northfield, the South Metro RAVE and the Blues.
The Blues’ final game of the summer is Sunday in Eagan.
The program allows kids and adults of all ages to compete together, have fun and exercise weekly on the pitch.
“The joy of sitting outside in the summer and watching these kids run around instead of being in a confined area, it’s huge,” said Jane Cashin, mother of 18-year-old Sam Cashin. “The physical activity for these kids is so necessary. Being in the gym doesn’t do it for these kids during the summer.”
The coaches don’t have children who are on the team. They’re involved because they want to be, said Cashin.
“They’re not all excited about it because it’s for their child,” she said. “They’re excited for it because it’s our child. That gets a parent excited.”
The feeling is mutual, Raver said.
“Once you start doing it,” Raver said, “the athletes make you really passionate about it and want to be out there.”