This Coach Turned His Experience With Disability Into His Life's Work
A new documentary chronicles the life of a coach whose career path some might find unexpected.
Mike Stella was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child. His parents were told he would never walk or go to college, but he was determined to not just walk but push his body to be as strong as it could be. He ran and played football in high school and now holds a Master’s degree.
Stella didn’t always feel successful or welcomed in the fitness world — growing up, he was often cut from teams at school because of his disability. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed” competing against able-bodied athletes, he says in the film (below). But then he was drawn to the weight room, a place where he could compete against himself. He wanted to understand his own body, but in the process he discovered his passion for coaching other athletes.
“Coach Stella,” a short film directed by C49 in partnership with TruEnergy sports drinks, shows Stella demonstrating his philosophy that “training begins but never ends” as he mentors young athletes. He discusses the importance of developing trust between coaches and athletes and how skills and qualities developed through training can carry over to other aspects of his students’ lives. He hopes the lessons he teaches will serve his athletes as they move forward to college and beyond.
Along with the rest of his exercise regimen, Stella regularly practices grasping items and writing with his right hand, which is affected by his disability. He believes his cerebral palsy helps him demonstrate that all athletes have challenges to overcome.
“They don’t necessarily have my disability, but everyone has a disability,” Stella says.