NORMAN — A recent graduate of Norman North High School is heading off to college soon like many other students across the nation, but he’s leaving something behind that the community will benefit from after his absence.
William Long was recently recognized by the Norman Public Schools Board of Education for initiating a new program. He came up with the idea of “Soccer for Everyone” while talking to his friend who has a brother with a mental disability.
“He was telling me that his brother would probably not be attending college. Of course it sounds like a very practical suggestion, but to me for the first time it sounded very, very alien. Everyone goes to college and that was sort of a wake-up call,” Long told board members recently. “These kids have very limited opportunities in life.”
Since soccer is a big thing in Norman and he himself played for five or six years, it was a natural choice for him to provide children with disabilities the opportunity to play the sport. He pitched the idea to the Norman Youth Soccer Association and they put it on the ground, he said.
“They actually put in hard money and they were able to dedicate so much of their staff. They’ve been very supportive of the idea. All I really did was suggest that this might be a good idea,” he said.
This past spring was the first year for “Soccer for Everyone” and Long said it was a success. Once a week the children and volunteers get together to practice, shoot goals and play a few soccer games for roughly an hour.
“We had about 40 kids, parents, coaches, soccer players, who all were very interested and supportive of helping these kids, one-on-one, play soccer,” he said. “They had very different skill abilities, but I think one thing they all shared in common was their enjoyment for just being outside if nothing else.”