A soccer season that gets everybody involved, that’s the goal of the Bellevue Middle School Unified Soccer program.
The newly formed league aims to get all students to be active and use skills to play as a team.
“So far it has gone excellent,” said head coach Lee Woolmore. “Lots of kids are involved, at least 15 from each school.”
All three Bellevue Public Schools middle schools — Mission, Logan Fontenelle and Lewis and Clark — are in the program. The term “unified” means bringing special education children with general education children together to play soccer.
The BPS program kicked off in September, and Woolmore said he is excited to see it grow.
“It’s separate from the high schools,” he said. “We want to see how it goes first. We would love to eventually get it in more schools and elementary schools, too.”
The idea started to get more students involved in the Bellevue community.
“I’ve always been involved in soccer. I played at Bellevue University and coached the whole time I was there,” he said. “When I graduated, I took on more full-time coaching. I thought there wasn’t much going on in this district. It is an opportunity for kids to be active and get involved.”
Woolmore also wants students to help each other throughout the season.
“It’s also an opportunity for kids to mentor each other as well,” he said. “As opposed to just playing soccer, they’re getting daily life skills as well. Communication and team work are skills they are gaining.
“With it being unified soccer, it helps the special education kids understand how to work in a group environment. It helps the general education kids get a better understanding on how to be a leader.”
All equipment was donated by Beardmore Chevrolet. Donations by the Bellevue Public Schools Foundation and Special Olympics Nebraska also helped get the program up and running.
Soccer fundamentals are taught to the students to get a better understanding of the game itself.
“At this age and this level it’s a lot about fundamentals,” Woolmore said.
“Some of these kids have never touched the ball before. Some have, so it’s good to learn from the experienced kids, too. Lots of small-sided games and competition to keep them active.”
Support for the program has been encouraging as well.
“We have received so much positive feedback,” he said. “So many positive kids, parents and teachers so it’s been great. I think it’s really giving something for the kids to enjoy and be excited about.”
Woolmore said he is happy he has made such a big impact in the local schools.
“As a coach, that’s why you do this. You want to make an impact on as many kids as possible, and I feel like this is just the start.”
Woolmore said he is excited to see what the future holds for the program.
“The vision right now is to make sure to keep it in the middle schools and then build it from here,” he said. “Maybe we can put them in the elementary schools to give more kids a chance. It’s something we’re striving for.”