New league pairs soccer players with special needs kids

ENCINITAS — A Cardiff-by-the-Sea teen has combined two of her passions — soccer and community service — into a program aimed at providing opportunities for youth with special needs.

Quincy Erturk, a 16-year-old junior at Canyon Crest Academy, is setting up the Champions League, a new soccer league that pairs competitive soccer players with special needs youth.

For Erturk, a varsity soccer player and daughter of Solana Center Executive Director Jessica Toth, the league is a natural extension of her work with special needs youth, which stretches back several years.

She has participated in a similar baseball league for four years, which inspired her to start the league with the sport she loves.

“It is a great experience, it’s really eye opening,” Erturk said. “I discovered that I have a passion playing with players that have special needs… After the first season in baseball I wanted to do it again and again. I have been playing soccer since I was 5, so I wanted to bring the same thing to special needs players particularly in Cardiff, where I live.”

Here is how the league works: each of the special needs players is matched with a competitive soccer player, and the pair is “buddied” together for the length of the six-week season. The duo plays every game together.

The pairs will participate in games for about half of the hour-long session that Erturk said don’t involve much soccer, if any at all. The final stanza of the session will involve a loosely organized scrimmage.

The experience becomes less about the soccer and more about the bond that is forged between the volunteers, the children and their families, Erturk said.

“These are relationships that will last far after the season ends,” said Erturk, who was a finalist for the Encinitas Youth of the Year in 2015.

Erturk said she has learned a lot about altruism from her mother, Toth, whose nonprofit provides recycling education and services across the county.

“Since she’s always around companies that care less about themselves and more about giving, it made me aware of these opportunities,” she said. “Also, in middle school I had opportunities to get involved with community service and found it very enjoyable.”

The league runs from Jan. 9 to Feb. 13 (3 to 4 p.m.) at Ada Harris Elementary School, in Cardiff. People interested in both volunteering or participating should register online at cardiffsoccer.org or contact Erturk via email at champions@cardiffsoccer.org

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