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Casteel sophomore soccer player uses hands to communicate with buddy

Brett (left) and Naomi Nyboer (right). (Courtesy)

Use of the hands in soccer is not allowed with the exception of goalies.

While 15-year-old Naomi Nyboer can’t use her hands on the soccer field as a midfielder, she uses them on the sideline to have a profound impact on the life of an 8-year-old boy.

Nyboer is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and participates in the Arizona Soccer Club’s special needs program, TOPSoccer. She serves as a buddy to Brett, who Nyboer says isn’t deaf but doesn’t speak.

She originally learned the language as a replacement for Spanish due to her struggle of “rolling Rs.” A member of the Arizona Soccer Club for four years, she wanted to use her new skill to help those in need of a friend.

“I wanted to be partnered with someone who needed (ASL) so I could help them and bring them out of their shell,” Nyboer said.

Brett turned out to be the perfect match for Nyboer, as it allowed her to instill in someone the love of a game she’s played for 10 years.

Nyboer mentioned Brett wasn’t excited about soccer when the two met initially and didn’t like kicking soccer balls.

“He didn’t want to do soccer, so I would bring him out of his shell by bringing things that he was interested in,” she said.

Knowing Brett had a love of werewolves, she taught him how to sign the word and turned the sport into an activity that involved the folklore icons.

“I said ‘OK, let’s go kick some werewolves’ kicks,” Nyboer said, adding Brett would howl before each kick.

She says Brett now looks forward to being on the soccer field, showcasing a clear bond built between the two.

“It’s really cool to know that I was able to have that kind of an impact on someone’s life,” Nyboer said. “I’m his whole world when he goes there.”

Casey Nyboer, Naomi’s mom, added, “when I see Brett’s face light up when they see each other on the field, it’s just amazing. They are so cute together.

“To see her be so compassionate and caring and take time to talk to him and get down to his level and speak how he needs her to speak, it’s just really cool and it’s given her so much,” said Casey, who works for the Mesa Fire Department.

Between soccer practice, participating in the buddy program, serving as an assistant coach with Arizona Soccer Club’s Grassroots Recreation Program, coaching on her younger sibling’s teams and officiating matches, the sophomore at Casteel High School also volunteers at Hospice of the Valley where she prepares baked goods for patients and wraps gifts in the Toys for Tots program.

Naomi Nyboer also volunteered over the summer at a school that focuses on developmentally disabled children. She used her ASL training to communicate with students and help with activities.

“It’s nice to give back to the people you live around,” Nyboer said. “You don’t know what those people are going through and you don’t know where you’re going to be in your future so it’s good to help others because it’s the right thing to do.”

Casey Nyboer added, “Every night is something and it’s all about giving back or working on her skills.”

Naomi Nyboer is taking steps to expand Arizona Soccer Club’s buddy program by becoming a coach and operating her own branch in Queen Creek. She would run training sessions and games, bringing in other buddies to make a difference in the lives of special needs children.

Casey said Naomi’s dad, a state trooper, plans to participate as a buddy when his daughter’s program gets underway.

Naomi has an aspiration of playing soccer in college but plans to focus on making her dream of becoming a physical therapist come true.