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To the Basketball Team That Made My Son an Athlete

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I could think all night about the days when I played softball and even back to my t-ball days if I think way back in time. I have no clue tonight just what my son will remember from his first basketball team, but I hope it goes something like this: “My teammates were great — they all encouraged me to do my best!” “My coach gave me every opportunity to play!” “My teammate’s sister (my new friend) taught me how to get the ball in the hoop!”

I ask you one other thing about this picture that will hang somewhere in our house as a very positive memory: Do you see the kid that fits the description of having an “A” in his or her title? Look close, I’ll wait!

Kids' basketball team and coaches posing for a photo
April’s son posing with his basketball team and coaches

Give up yet? They all do! The “A” I’m talking about is “Athlete!” That’s not the “A” you thought I was talking about, right? Yes, my son has autism, but that’s not the main point here. The main point is how this amazing coach treated my son from the start. This coach treated him just like all the other teammates and thus, in turn, his teammates turned around and treated him the same way. Coach took him under his wing just like the others, drilled him when the others ran drills and gave applause or correction when needed just like he did with the others. My son didn’t have to sink a single basket during a game (although he got pretty good at doing it during practice). He showed up and tried his best, and they respected him for it.

And to you guys, his teammates — you will always be a part of something bigger than you’ll ever know. You made this team sport a success for my son, and your support is a burst of inspiration to us all. It will carry us when times are hard in the days and weeks ahead. It will remind me that inclusion can happen outside of a classroom, where it’s been mandated by a law. All that’s needed is the willingness of a leader who will show his team how. I will think back to when my son was “just one of the boys,” and I will remember that this team made him an Athlete — not because of his ability or disability, but just because he was a kid who wanted to play.

Originally published: January 20, 2016
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