Sports saved my life

My childhood wasn’t the best. I never really had my father in my life, my mother remarried a man with six kids and most of them were not very nice, and I was bullied in junior high. My mom and my lovely sister were the only ones that understood me and had my back.  

In seventh grade, there was a kid who mocked me and spit on me during our volleyball PE unit.  As someone with CP, volleyball was not the sport for me. I was not equipped for it. After a week of this kid mocking me, my anger had built-up, and I went to the cafeteria. As I was walking towards him, the crowd knew there was going to be a fight. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he called me a name. You know how when you’re angry you seem to suddenly have more power? When I hit him, he flew over the table. I was shocked. 

The teachers broke it up immediately. That kid went to the principal’s office and a teacher took me aside and told me, “I’ve been watching you, and it’s about time you defended yourself. But don’t do it again.” I broke down crying.

The next day, I had gained sudden popularity. People were cheering my name as I walked down the halls. I was also introduced to the wrestling team, where I started my wrestling career that lasted from junior high until the end of high school. Wrestling really helped me out by giving me an outlet for my anger. It also helped build my confidence. I went from a skinny, like a toothpick, kid to someone with muscles. I’ve since kept active throughout my life and it’s helped me out not just physically but emotionally. 

Sports can give you an emotional outlet

Sports, or other hobbies, can give you an emotional outlet, help you develop confidence, and improve your outlook.  This is especially important when you are disabled or Deaf, as there are many additional challenges in life that we face.  It was amazing how I didn’t think I could wrestle, and after trying it and after much practice, became good.  I wasn’t perfect by any means, but it made me happier, fitter, and allowed me to enjoy life more. To this day, I try new activities regularly.  I’m currently learning how to swing dance.

Never compare yourself to others

The key thing about sports or other activities is to never compare yourself to others; challenge yourself to be the best you can be. It’s not where you placed in the race, it’s that you were there. I always challenge myself and push myself further. It’s more important to focus on your own progress. Even though I wasn’t the best, I still tried and that helped me out a lot and gave me the confidence not to worry about what other people thought about me.

If you are a parent or caregiver for a child with a disability, encourage them 

Help them follow their dreams. If they want to join a sport, let them. Many sports can be adapted to accommodate different needs and there are also adaptive sport leagues that children can join.  Check with the school, their physical or occupational therapists, or the local therapeutic recreation department. There are larger organizations that may help get the ball rolling, too, such as your local chapter of the YMCA, Special Olympics or Challenged Athletes Foundation.

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Keith wrestling in school.

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