In doing so, Shaun Docking broke the program’s record for most wins by a coach, and the Chanticleers moved up in the national polls to No. 19.
So how did they celebrate? Same as every Monday, by volunteering their time by playing with the special-needs children of Miracle League Soccer.
“It’s a great opportunity for our team to get to know the kids and see their smiling faces,” Docking said. “Our guys are the ones smiling the biggest.”
The upstart league, an offshoot of the successful Grand Strand Miracle League baseball program, has 56 children participating in its first season. With the help of various groups around the Grand Strand, but especially the CCU soccer team that helps every week, the soccer program is a hit.
But the overnight success has actually been a work in progress for more than two years. Phillips, whose oldest of three sons is autistic, was attending one of his younger brother’s soccer games when the “miracle” was born.
Horry County Parks & Recreation district supervisor saw her and asked if she thought a special-needs soccer league would go over on the Grand Strand and, as the old saying goes, she took the ball and ran with it.
After contacting the baseball-version of the Miracle League for support, using the Internet and Facebook to find prospective players and enlisting the CCU soccer program’s aid, something special was finally born this fall.
“My oldest son was wondering why we were going to his brothers’ games but not his,” Phillips said. “Jason brought up the idea and I knew there had to be more kids and parents out there in my situation. We’ve received so much support from so many people to make it work. It really is a miracle.”
On Monday night’s this fall, dozens of special-needs children volunteers and CCU soccer players meet on the Miracle League baseball field to play. Goals are set up on the field and the action has even spilled out onto the adjoining lawn to make room for more players and more room to roam.
Unlike the baseball games, which have a bit of a fun, festival atmosphere with an announcer and music over the PA, the soccer games are low key. That’s because Burton and Phillips want to specifically cater to children with autism, who often do not respond well to loud noise and big crowds.
“This is perfect, better than we imagined,” Phillips said. “It means so much for the children to have this time every week. It makes a huge difference in their lives.”
The Miracle League Soccer’s fall season comes to an next Monday, but it will be back in the spring, hopefully with even more kids to participate. And Docking and his players will be back too.
“Our guys wouldn’t miss it,” Docking said. “This is one of the things I don’t have to make them do. They look forward to it. I think they get as much out of it as the kids.”
- Photo courtesy of Miracle League Soccer