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Flagstaff Revolution – an Atypical Experience

Our son Alain is no stranger to the word “atypical.” At an early age he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and later ADHD/ADD Combined type. I will spare you our scientific lecture on what these disorders are but will say it means his behaviors are often different than what is expected of a “typical” eleven-year-old boy. Because of this, people treat him differently and negative experiences with teachers, coaches, and peers are often the norm for him, including chronic bullying by classmates this past year. For him, a typical experience in sports and the classroom has become one of broken trust, anxiety, and frustration which has eroded his confidence and self-esteem. He has been needing an atypical experience and we finally found it in Flagstaff Revolution.

This program is the first one where Alain walked out onto the field and was immediately accepted by coaches, parents, and players and then treated like everyone else. And not just on day one – but at each practice and scrimmage and game. His successes were celebrated and his mistakes were corrected and learned from, just like everyone else. Many of the boys on the team have been playing together for years and it would be natural for them to not immediately accept an outsider. However, when we’ve asked Alain if anyone has picked on him or been mean his response has been “No way, the coaches would never allow it”. That right there is a true testament to how this organization is run. Flagstaff Revolution isn’t just developing great soccer players, they are developing great humans.

Don’t get me wrong, they are developing great soccer players, too! With the possession-based curriculum, additional keeper clinics, and the wealth of knowledge the coaches possess we have watched Alain, and the entire team, develop and grow on a weekly basis. When Alain took an interest in playing keeper, Coach Kirk fostered this interest by sending us videos of Tim Howard (who has Tourette’s Syndrome, by the way) setting the record for the most saves in a Men’s World Cup game. Alain LOVED it and went on to have his own amazing moments when he had the opportunity to play keeper in a tournament. He made save after save, including one diving PK, and earned Man of the Match from his coaches two games in a row and later, Man of the Tournament. He was so proud and rode that high for weeks.

That tournament will be something he remembers forever. But for Matt and I? We will remember how he has learned what it ACTUALLY means to be part of a team and have respect, and in turn respect your teammates and coaches. We will remember how he looks forward to going to soccer practice and is bummed out when it’s canceled (even though cancelation might mean more time for video games). We will remember how he’s learning to put in the hard work to get better and constantly improve. But most of all, we will remember how his confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth have grown and how atypical this experience has been. The beauty of the word atypical is that it can also mean exceptional, extraordinary, or unique, and those are also accurate words to describe Flagstaff Revolution.

Heidie and Matt O’Neill

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