New Hyde Park’s Bigeni a star on the field, wants to help off the field

New Hyde Park’s Bigeni a star on the field, wants to help off the field
New Hyde Park High School's Sofia Bigeni is in her 3rd year as a starter on the varsity soccer team, and is being recruited by Division I schools. PHOTO CREDIT: New Hyde Park H.S.

Sofia Bigeni eats, sleeps and breathes soccer. It’s in her family blood.

Older sister Bella was a standout goalie on the New Hyde Park High School team, while younger brother Jackson plays for Chaminade.

Sofia has been a starter for the Gladiators for three years now, so it’s no surprise that it’s through soccer that she said she’s found her other passion in life: Helping children.

Through head coach Maiken Bursig, the New Hyde Park team has become involved with TOP Soccer, which is a local community-based program that offers children with special needs an opportunity to participate in soccer.

Its website says that it’s a program for “all athletes with intellectual, emotional and/or physical disabilities who cannot participate in our intramurals or travel programs.  We try to provide soccer opportunities for players to develop at their own pace in a safe, fun and supportive inclusive environment.”

Bigeni loves the program and has been inspired by it. She enthusiastically spoke about helping a 4-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, as well as other older kids. TOP Soccer has affected Bigeni so much that she says her career goal is now to become a special education teacher.

“I love to help little kids, who need help, and need to be in good hands,” the junior midfielder said. “It’s really rewarding and fun to work with these kids, and they really appreciate all the attention you give them.”

When she’s playing club or high school soccer, it’s Bigeni who usually gets all the attention. From opposing defenses, that is. She’s been a mainstay at midfield for the Gladiators, and is “the offensive catalyst of our team,” Bursig said.

Last year as a sophomore Bigeni scored a team-high seven goals, and through seven games this season she has scored four goals and added five assists.

“She’s such a coachable kid, and always wants to make herself better so she can help the team,” Bursig said. “She’s constantly asking me questions like ‘what should I have done there?’ or ‘how can I play that better next time?'”
For Bigeni, she’s come a long way since coming up as a freshman, when she said she was “really scared” being around the older players.
But her experience playing club soccer with Islip-based Susa Academy has helped her develop her all-around game.
“Club soccer and high school soccer are so different,” Bigeni said. “High school soccer is a lot more physical, which I love. But as a freshman I wasn’t sure of myself, didn’t want to mess up. But some of the older girls took me under their wing and really helped me.”
Bigeni’s best skill, Bursig said, is her passing. She’d much rather set up a teammate for a goal then score one herself. Bursig has urged her to be more selfish, since she’s got a great shot.
“I do probably look to pass too much,” Bigeni admitted. “It’s just a lot more fun to help someone score.”
Despite New Hyde Park’s struggles so far on the field (through games of Sept. 29 they’d won once in eight tries), Bigeni has attracted a lot of attention from Division I schools. She said her dream school to play for is the University at Albany, who is recruiting her.
“I can only imagine how good she’s going to be once she’s a college freshman, with so many skilled players around her and her continuing to improve,” Bursig said. “She’s such a hard worker and is going to get better and better.”
“I just love hearing another person’s opinion on my game, and what I can do differently,” she said. “Every coach can make you better and teach you something you didn’t know, and I just want to be as great as I can.”

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