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News - Details

TOPSoccer Helps Children with Special Needs Advance


Craig Ludin playing for HBC

By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

October 18, 2016-You never know what will happen until you begin.

In 1978, two longtime Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) clubs, the Huntington Boys Club (HBC) and Massapequa Soccer Club, separately started programs for children with special needs. The program was the first of its kind, not only in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), but in the entire world, during an era when kids with special needs playing sports is not as accepted as it is today. This program provides an opportunity for the child who deviates from the average kid in mental, physical or social characteristics and requires modified educational practices and services in order to develop to his or her potential.

Mike Ludin was the founder of HBC’s program because he wanted his son, Craig, to have the same opportunities to play soccer as his sons Bryan and Evan did. Nearly four decades later, Craig is still playing soccer as an adult, as are many of his teammates who also started playing soccer as kids.

”Playing soccer, wearing a uniform, gaining confidence, doing the same things that other kids do has helped our players advance,” Mike said.

Two HBC players, Brendan Higgins and Meghan Latini, became boyfriend and girlfriend and were pretty popular at Huntington High School, so much so that they were voted King and Queen of the Senior Prom.

”She has been amazing, she has always reached heights that we didn't know she would be able to,” Meghan's mother, Marianne Latini, told NBC News 4 New York. ”We are so lucky.”

Ann Marie Toth is the longtime Chairperson of the LIJSL program, now officially called the LIJSL TOPSoccer Special Children’s Program, which encompasses 26 clubs in Suffolk, Nassau and Queens today and uses the slogan of ”Come Play With Me.” She has also been organizing and coaching the Plainview/Old Bethpage TOPSoccer Program at the Peter Collins Soccer Park for decades.

”Of our TOPSoccer players in Plainview/Old Bethpage who are now adults, many have full-time or part-time jobs and one even lives on her own, not far from her parents,” Ann Marie stated. ”Certainly, playing soccer, making friends and the confidence they gained in doing so has something to do with their ability to become employed.”

As for Craig Ludin, he took a job as a clerk in the mailroom at North Fork Bank, now Capital One Bank, working there for nearly two decades. North Fork’s former President/CEO John Kanas always admired Craig and recently recruited him to join Kanas at Bank United, which just happens to sponsor Eastern New York.

Craig has won so many medals in the Special Olympics in multiple sports, but especially in swimming, that he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.

As his father Mike commented, ”It’s pretty cool to see Craig’s name there next to Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg and Mark Spitz.”

For more info or to register your child for the LIJSL TOPSoccer Special Children’s Program, please call Ann Marie Toth at 516-694-3567.

With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.