FSU’s seventh annual Kickin’ It For Autism set for April 21

Photo credit: Former FSU soccer player Olivia Garcia leads participants through a cheer during the 2023 Kickin’ It For Autism Event. (Cathy Zenko)
Former FSU soccer player Olivia Garcia leads participants through a cheer during the 2023 Kickin’ It For Autism Event. (Cathy Zenko)

Members of Florida State University’s national champion women’s soccer team will look to score a win for autism awareness at the seventh annual Kickin’ It For Autism soccer clinic on April 21.

Along with coaches from the undefeated 2023 championship squad, players will lead participants through drills and activities aimed at building their knowledge and enjoyment of the game. FSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) and the FSU Autism Institute will host the event.

FSU Head Women’s Soccer Coach Brian Pensky said the event is one his team enjoys year after year.

“The players develop drills and show the kids how to run through them. It gives the players an opportunity to show a bit of their personality, to share their love of the game and for members of the community to get to know them off the field,” Pensky said. “Being able to do that, while raising awareness and acceptance of autism is something our entire team takes great pride in. Ultimately, it’s just a really fun event for everyone involved.”

Participants of all ages and experience levels are invited to attend, said Cathy Zenko, director of FSU CARD.

“National champions have a lot to teach about their game but the big win for us is seeing the participants have fun,” Zenko said. “We welcome participants of any age, any ability and any member of the neurodiverse and neurotypical community to come out and play. If participants need accommodations, we will provide them to help make their experience enjoyable.”

The Centers for Disease Control calculates that 1 in 36 persons in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum. With that in mind, Zenko said efforts to increase awareness and acceptance are appreciated — and necessary.

“The experience of being around people with autism, especially for those folks who might not recognize it or who have misconceptions, is a big benefit,” Zenko said. “They take that experience with them and continue to spread awareness.”

Kickin’ It For Autism takes place 2‑4 p.m. on Sunday, April 21 at the FSU Soccer Complex.

Online registration is $20 and is available through April 15. Onsite registration is $25 if the event doesn’t sell out before April 15. Tickets are limited due to the capacity of the soccer field. Registration includes a T-shirt, refreshments and food provided by local restaurants.

To register and for more information, visit fsucard.com.