by Al Stover
Katie Cashman runs down the field and passes the ball to Chris Croft, who runs it the rest of the way, then kicks the ball past goalie Jamie Walker into the small red goal.
Several minutes prior to the game, Cashman, Chris and Walker were playing Duck, Duck, Goose with the other teams on their field before the start of the game.
The EWU women’s soccer team, Washington Youth Soccer and Spokane TOPSoccer hosted a spring jamboree soccer tournament at the EWU Sports and Recreation Varsity Soccer Field May 19.
Teams were comprised of athletes and members of the soccer team who practiced drills and gave encouragement to the athletes. The field was divided into three parts based on age, size and skill level.
Spokane TOPSoccer is an outreach program that gives young athletes with developmental and physical disabilities the opportunity to play and learn the fundamentals of soccer.
The soccer team has volunteered with Spokane TOPSoccer since the program began in 2006, and they recently finished volunteering at TOPSoccer’s six-week youth soccer camp.
“We are so blessed to have Eastern as community supporters who do our program every spring,” Spokane TOPSoccer coordinator Monaca Duff said. “They are fantastic to have.”
According to Duff, prior to having the tournament in Cheney, TOPSoccer would work with one of the local tournaments who would provide them a field for two hours.
Duff, along with EWU assistant coach Tamara Hageage and two other committee members, brainstormed the idea of having the jamboree at Eastern.
“Some of our players are qualified with Special Olympics, but they only work with children who are cognitively challenged,” Duff said. “Some of of our players who are not cognitively challenged wouldn’t be able to play. So this gives them the same tournament feel.”
In addition to playing, the athletes and the soccer team signed each others’ shirts and posed in pictures with Swoop.
When the games were finished, the athletes ate pizza while Swoop returned to help give out awards.
According to Christopher’s mother Ronda Croft, Christopher was excited to have a chance to play in the outdoors for the tournament and to meet Swoop.
“I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate the program,” Ronda Croft said. “Coach [Hageage] and the Eastern soccer girls, he looks forward to every Wednesday because of them. He loves it.”
Walker, who has worked with TOPSoccer for three years and is minoring in special education, thought the event was fun.
“Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, both family and the kids,” Walker said.
Duff hopes to make the spring jamboree tournament an annual event with more teams and athletes from the pacific northwest in the coming years.
“This is a way to end off our season and hopefully more and more of our players decide to come and maybe Sandpoint and some of the local areas,” Duff said. “Having something local is the way to go right now.”
After the event was finished, the athletes and the soccer team came together and gave an Eagle cheer.