I have always been into sports. I played as many as I could growing up as a kid. I remember the first sport I ever played was recreational tee-ball. From the first practice, I was hooked on anything to do with baseball.
I went on to play a ton of recreational sports: baseball, basketball and football. I love how playing a sport can build someone into not only a great player, but it also teaches discipline and to respect to your coaches and teammates. I also learned to trust my coaches and teammates.
Sports also teach you how to handle adversity. If you’re struggling that day on the field, you learn how to handle failure. If you do fail, it teaches good sportsmanship. Sports teach you how to handle winning and losing.
I have a 3-year-old daughter who is very athletic and full of energy. My wife and I were talking about getting her into some type of sports activities where she can burn off her extra energy and be around other children. One day my friend, who also has a 3-year-old, called me. He asked me if I would help him coach tee-ball.
Where we live, if your child is under 4 and you want them to play, you have to help coach. My first thoughts were: “How am I going to be able to keep up with my child and 14 other 3 to 6 year olds in my wheelchair? How will the children respond to someone in a wheelchair? How will I be perceived by the parents?”
But more than anything, I was thinking about how much I loved baseball as a child and how I wanted my daughter to be able to experience playing tee-ball. I wanted her to learn what it was like to be on a team with other children, regardless if she would love it like I did. I wanted us to have the memory of all the things we did together.
So after telling my friend I would coach, I asked my daughter if she wanted to play tee-ball. She said yes! The next day I took her to sign up to play. She was so excited after signing up that she started crying hysterically. I asked her what was wrong. She told me that she wanted to play tee-ball. She thought we were going right then to play. But the funny thing is, she had no idea what tee-ball was!
The season begins
That first weekend I was excited. I bought her a bat and a tee-ball glove, as well as a tee, so we could practice before we started practice with the team. I taught my daughter how to hit the ball off the tee with ease.
Our first practice came around and here my friend and I were surrounded by 15 children ages 3 to 6 years old. I was trying to keep my daughter focused as we went over the fundamentals of tee-ball. I could tell that a lot of the children were trying to figure out why I was rolling around the baseball field in a wheelchair.
Looking back, when I introduced myself, I wish I would have told them that when I was younger I had a car accident that caused damage to my back and that’s why I can’t walk. But throughout the season, I had a few kids come up and ask me why I was in a wheelchair. The more practices we had, the more comfortably the children responded to me and engaged with me.
Our first game
Our first game came along and it was my daughter’s turn to bat. She made contact with the ball off the tee her first swing. I told her to run to first base.
Well, she took off towards first and kept on running past first – all the way out to the outfield! I took off after her and got her to come back to first.
The next batter hit and my daughter just stood there, so I had to lead her to second base and then to third base and eventually we both made it to home plate together. As we both crossed over home plate, I looked to the watching crowd and told them, “I am worn out! I didn’t realize I was going to have to roll the bases with her!”
They all laughed as well. There were hilarious times like that throughout the season.
My daughter and the children continued to get better after each game and most of them were hitting the ball without the tee by the end of the season. It was a joy to coach and be a part of the team. Hopefully, the children will grow up and learn all the valuable lessons I learned playing sports.
I look forward to coaching next year. I hope that others out there – whether in a wheelchair or some other disability – will get out there and coach if the opportunity is there. Don’t let anything stop you from doing something you love.
Keep pushing forward!
In order to keep you informed of new stories from Jeremy, please click here to 'Join Our Community'. All we need is your name and email address to keep you updated.
The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BD-12543