Special needs soccer team offers flexible approach

soccer-HZTAs the weather starts to warm, parents of young children begin the ritual of signing up their youngsters for spring sports. For parents whose children have special needs, joining a sports team can pose several challenges. The noise and crowds may be overwhelming, the competition may cause anxiety. Families who have such concerns have another local option.

For the past five years, Tom Ham has been coaching a small special needs soccer team in Saugerties. Ham coached AYSO soccer for many years when his children were young, but when they “aged out” he looked for another way to stay involved. His search led him to the AYSO Very Important Player, or VIP, program. Ham took a class on coaching the VIP program in Philadelphia before bringing it to Saugerties.

Since he began the program, the team has had players as young as four and a half all the way through 19-year-old young adults. Instead of playing on Sundays, when Cantine Field is packed with players and parents, his team plays on Saturdays at 3 p.m.


Ham says he can be flexible and cater to a player’s abilities. Sometimes they play against the parents, sometimes against one another. He says he “lets the kids steer it,” and says “we have a blast.”

Another benefit to the program, according to Ham, it that it allows parents of special needs children to have a break, and chat with others on the bleachers. He says parents have made many valuable connections and shared resources with one another while their children have played.

For information about participating in the team, parents can contact Tom Ham at 247-3327.