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How Rival Coaches Came Together to Support Me as an Athlete With Learning Disabilities

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One day at a track meet I had the opportunity to meet Coach Casserly, the track coach from my school’s big rival, Canton. Little did I know it was only the beginning of a very special relationship with this incredible coach. I can recall a memorable conversation we had together when he encouraged me to join my school’s cross-country team to possibly make track easier. He said, “I really think you and Coach Adams would have a great relationship given your determination and personality.” I listened to his advice and joined cross-country the following fall. I quickly knew he was right.

I have nonverbal learning disorder and ended up facing added obstacles. The first occurred during my first season as I was the only varsity girl on my team. While Coach Adams was so incredible to me, I needed other support and Coach Casserly was there to give it. He always had the girls on his team greet me at the finish line, which decreased my feelings of loneliness. I was also unable to navigate some of the race courses due to poor spatial skills connected to having NVLD, so occasionally I was forced to drop out of the race. This wasn’t easy for me, however these two incredible coaches always gave me an inspiring message so I could work through it effectively.

The following season, I was in between seizure medicines and unfortunately I was having seizures occur often. When I had one, Coach Adams was just incredible to me. However, as a coach he had other responsibilities and extra support was needed, and again Coach Casserly provided it. I was most impressed when Coach Casserly said to me, “If you are ever having a seizure and see someone from the Canton team first, please don’t hesitate to tell us and one of us we will get Coach Adams for you.” This decreased my anxiety as I knew Coach Adams wasn’t always going to be near me when I had a seizure. There was a positive ending to my season. My perseverance lead me to receiving my team’s sportsmanship award. Coaches Adams and Casserly were both so proud of me.

My final and senior season Coach Adams continued to be the best coach for me, and Coach Casserly was once again a big support. I had lost a lot of determination due to unfortunate circumstances, so a piece of me felt missing. As a result, I felt things would be easier for Coach Adams if I wasn’t on the team.  Since Coach Adams always kept a close eye on me, he realized how badly I was hurting. Right away he made sure I knew I did belong on the team. I had a difficult time believing him, and thoughts of quitting were still in my head. Thankfully Coach Casserly was very instrumental in helping me realize Coach Adams was right; I did belong on the team, as quitting could have changed my outlook on life forever.

Given this experience, my advice to others is to always remember to build connections with teachers, coaches or club advisors right away as they usually want you to succeed. If you have the confidence to take the initiative, adults will see the true you and special relationships like mine with Coach Adams and Coach Casserly can be formed. This can lead to great things for many people. I learned to never give in to obstacles, as “the race isn’t over until you cross the finish line and not finishing isn’t an option.”

I also learned from them that in life obstacles often happen to the best people. It won’t be easy, but I truly believe if you can take the first step, you will be able to show people there is more to you than meets the eye and life-lasting connections will happen. I am forever grateful for my fantastic relationships with both Coach Adams and Coach Casserly.

Getty image by LZF.

Originally published: October 28, 2018
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