By Lauren Estes
The Cullman Times
A local special needs soccer league loaded with 38 participants of all ages finished the season with a bang at Heritage Park on Saturday.
This Cullman soccer group was created for players with mental and physical disabilities and hosted participants age four and up with no age limit to play in it’s eight game season, free of charge. Local organizer and Alabama State Trooper Josh Cox said the season was not only a success, but fulfilling, too.
“We were blessed with many sponsors that allowed us to keep the league free to the players and also provide them with uniforms, cleats, shin-guards, and a post-season party,” Cox said. “The league required a lot of time and effort, but it was very rewarding. It is a unique opportunity to help others and have your heart blessed.”
Although the league is free, Cox said it remained that way through donations and sponsorships. He also described why he wanted to start this type of league and said it was his connection and passion for those affected with mental and physical handicaps.
“My aunt was born mentally handicapped and dealt with it her entire life,” Cox said. “One of my best friends, who is 23, was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy when he was eight and he played in the league.”
Cox said there was also a “buddy system” with the players, and used volunteers to help fulfill those roles.
“The buddy system is where we have someone that is the same age as the player, but does not have disabilities who will stand on the field with their player and help guide them through the game,” Cox said. “The time spent with this league can be used as community service hours.”
Cox said the participants and volunteers are already expressing their excitement for next season and registration will begin in May.
“Volunteers are always needed and we really need players,” Cox said. “So if you know anyone who has special needs or someone whose children have special needs please encourage them to take advantage of this opportunity. This can be a great way for friendships to be built that will last a lifetime. This can also allow people with disabilities to have social interaction.”
Other coaches alongside Cox included: Alabama State Troopers Matthew Vaughan, James Shadrick, and Michael McBrayer; Assistant coaches included: Holly Shadrick, Jessica McBrayer, and Stacey Barnett. Cox also wanted to thank all the volunteers who helped make the season a success and those who sponsored the league.
Sponsors included: JohnsonKreis Construction, Griffith Little & Lowery, LLC., Trimble Free and Accepted Masons, Cullman Free & and Accepted Masons, Mullins Wrecker Service, Ponders Wrecker Service, Traditions Bank, Eva Bank, Chick-fil-A, Daystar Church, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Cullman Bounce house rentals, and Desperation Church.
For more information you can visit AYSO.org, the Cullman AYSO Facebook page, or e-mail Josh Cox directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lauren Estes can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 270 or at email@example.com.