Dan Hastings hs been named the 2015 TOPS Coach of the Year by Massachusetts Youth Soccer. In addition, his name is now submitted for consideration as a Region I nominee.
Hastings became involved with TOPS in 2010, after hearing a TOPS presentation at a Mass Youth Soccer training session. He was at first intrigued, and then inspired, to bring TOPSoccer to Auburn. Before jumping in, Hastings spent two years volunteering for Holden (Mass.) TOPS, the closest TOPS program to Auburn at that time.
In 2012, Hastings spearheaded the launch of Auburn’s first TOPSoccer season, which had 13 players between 6 and 10 years old – a measured success. By the fall of 2015, participants had nearly doubled, and the program sees about an 80% retention rate. There are also over 25 volunteers and TOPS Buddies working along with Hastings, all of whom he has recruited.
TOPSoccer is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities, organized by youth soccer association volunteers. US Youth Soccer created the program to bring the opportunity of learning and playing soccer to any boy or girl, who has a mental or physical disability. There are now TOPS programs in all 50 states, including 7 Central Mass. communities. Holden, Millbury, Worcester, Clinton, Blackstone, and West Boylston also run TOPS. Statewide, there are over 40 TOPS programs and some 500 coaches, making Hastings’ recognition all the more impressive.
One area that makes Hastings stand out from the pack is the fact that he does not have a child of his own who participates in the TOPS program. In a letter of recommendation, one parent of two TOPS Buddies wrote, “I have coached in soccer programs for almost 15 years, but I have spent my time coaching my children’s teams. Dan has spent all of this time and effort without having a child of his own that would benefit from the TOPS program. Dan saw a need in the community and he stepped up to help kids that he had never even met.”
When he was notified, Hastings was surprised to say the least. “I was shocked. There are so many people who deserve it more” said Hastings. “I didn’t even know I was nominated or who nominated me.”
The parents of the TOPS players and the United Soccer of Auburn Board were far less shocked. Patricia Fanning of Dudley, who has both a player in TOPS and a daughter who volunteers as a TOPS Buddy, said “TOPSoccer is a wonderful program for all involved and Dan makes it happen, so we are extremely grateful for him, his work, and the Auburn Soccer League.”
Dan has been a United Soccer of Auburn volunteer and board member for about 12 years. He has served as a league coordinator, referee coordinator, coach, and since starting the program in 2012, the TOPS coordinator.
In a statement, the United Soccer of Auburn Board stated:
“Dan has done an amazing job not only recruiting players, but recruiting Buddies. By reaching out to the local high schools and colleges, he has built a roster of top-notch Buddies who are not
there just to collect their required community service areas. Some of these Buddies have been active in Auburn’s TOPS program for years in their own right, due in large part to Dan’s tireless leadership and support.
“The growth and strength of Auburn’s TOPSoccer program is directly attributable to the relationships Dan has forged with organizations like the local SEPAC, and behavioral health agencies. While several neighboring communities run TOPSoccer programs, Auburn continues to draw players from a number of towns, some as far as 30 minutes from Auburn. Players who have moved away from the immediate area have continued coming to Auburn. Dan’s hard work of course reflects very positively on United Soccer of Auburn. TOPS is a source of pride for our board, our club, and our larger community.”
Hastings will be recognized at the Massachusetts Youth Soccer 2015 Annual Awards Banquet on January 24 at the Doubletree Hotel in Leominster. To learn more about the Auburn TOPS program, visit www.unitedsoccerofauburn.com.