February 27, 2010

Shoot for the Stars - High School Sports

Soccer season has started. The girls practice in the gym every day after school. I am not sure the snow will melt in time for the first game. I give it a 50/50 chance.

Alex had a good soccer season last year. She played in every game, and although only for a few minutes, she played. She hustled and gave it her all. She was cheered by the fans, and supported by the team. An added bonus; Alex lost weight last spring, and she certainly needs to lose weight this spring. After all , she must be in fighting shape for the Nationals!

This season the three coaches have returned, with an addition, one of the new basketball coaches. The head soccer coach is great, communicates well and is considerate of Alex. I do not anticipate any of the issues we had this year in basketball. But I learned my lesson, never ever assume a good experience will be repeated, intervene before you need to interfere.

John has set up a meeting with the Director of Athletics and asked all four coaches to attend as well as Alex’s teacher, Mr. S. We will meet early next week for 20 minutes. In our allotted time, we will put a plan in place in regards to Alex’s practices, her play time and how we communicate. We will ensure the correct expectations are set for Alex in terms of what she can and can not do (I think she can do everything!), and reiterate the importance of good sportsmanship. We will make sure we are all on the same page, and learn from basketball season. I am confident the meeting will go well, but then again, my philosophy has always been “hope for the best and adjust as needed”.

I found the following while looking for more examples of kids with down syndrome who play high school sports. My arsenal is getting rather large.

Down syndrome athlete beats odds
April 2, 2009

By Alison Herget- For the CDT

Alek Masters would never develop like his peers, never be able to enjoy the same activities as other children his age, the doctors suggested.

Alek Masters throws a discus during a track and field practice on Wednesday. Those who know Alek say he pushes himself to be his best. On Friday, he’ll be honored for that drive with a Yes I Can! Award in Seattle.

Fifteen years ago, Christine and Robert Masters listened as doctor after doctor painted a bleak outlook for their newborn son, who had Down syndrome, a congenital disorder that causes mild to moderate mental handicaps. But the couple did not succumb to the negativity.

“We walked out of that doctor’s appointment pretty much realizing that we were going to do for him what we were going to do for any of our other kids, and that is offer them opportunities, stimulate them and encourage them to do the best they could,” said Christine Masters, of Boalsburg.

On Friday, Alek and his family will be in Seattle, where he will be honored by the Arlington, Va.-based Council for Exceptional Children with a 2009 Yes I Can! Award for his extracurricular achievements.

He is one of 27 children with disabilities who will receive the awards in categories such as academics, athletics and community service.

One of four siblings, Alek has defied doctors’ predictions by becoming involved in a long list of activities: Boy Scouts, marching band, track team, intramural bowling and golf.

Participation doesn’t always come as easily for Alek, a ninth-grader at State College Area High School, as it does for his peers.

Because he could not read sheet music, and had trouble understanding the concept of left and right, Alek took individual lessons throughout summer to help prepare him to play the cymbals in the high school marching band.

He enjoys both the music and the camaraderie with his classmates.

“It’s fun because I get to play with them,” said Alek.

Susanna Lee, his summer band instructor, said that through countless hours of practice, Alek’s dedication never faltered.

“Alek is a truly dedicated learner,” she said. “His attitude makes it impossible for anything to stop him from achieving what he sets out to do. He has such pure passion and enthusiasm for the things he’s doing.”

When Alek expressed interest in joining the track team, his father was curious to see how he’d do. After observing his first practices, Robert Masters knew that his son, who found his niche in discus and shotput, would thrive.

“They were all helping each other out and helping Alek,” his father said.

Kim Gasper, a coach for the Special Olympics of Centre County, said it is only fitting that Alek be recognized for his progress and diligence.

“As an individual, his improvement throughout the years has been nothing short of amazing, but his biggest contribution is not as an individual, but as a team leader,” she said. “He is one of our younger athletes but has become a role model to everyone he comes in contact with, regardless of age or ability.”

One of Alek’s next goals is to complete his Eagle Scout project. He’s thinking about renovating the park across the street from his house.

Long range, his dreams are no different from most people.

“I would like to get a job, make money … live in a house,” he said.

His parents say they’ll keep encouraging him to explore his interests.

“When opportunities come up, we ask him if he wants to do them,” Christine Masters said. “We don’t believe in pushing him out in everyone’s face if it’s not something he wants to do."

They are many articles similar to this on the internet, and in print. This only goes to prove a couple of things about kids with down syndrome. First and most importantly, our kids are just like their siblings, and their peers. Our kids have the same dreams as other kids, and work just as hard, or harder to achieve those dreams.

One of my honors, as the parent of this extraordinary daughter, is to help educate the world to encourage, not discourage the passion of our kids. I know I have a lot of allies in this quest, and a huge heartfelt thanks to all of them!

1 comment:

  1. This is Joyce. Great idea to have the meeting before soccer starts. I hope it turns out to be the best season yet.


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