Among my most positive experiences growing up with an NVLD was being a three-season runner. Since I gained an advocate, great friends and most of all I had a purpose at school. Therefore, it was upsetting to me that my experience was so uncommon as others with similar disabilities were missing out of the benefits it provided. During these unprecedented times more than ever I have thought this shouldn’t be as personal connections are so beneficial.
One of the first plusses is you can form a coach and athlete relationship which to me is a special one since you can have many serious conversations and great laughs with them. Also the level of care and concern they show for you will go beyond athletics. Through my own relationship with my coach Jim Adams I know how true this is. Now during the pandemic I have been thinking so much about our relationship and it is a great reminder that having personal connections are needed..
Making impressive strides in your social and personal growth is another benefit and during these times of social distancing I think about this often. Being part of athletic teams allowed others to see the full picture of who I was rather than just being a disabled student. This led to healthier friendships and decreased loneliness. Unfortunately, many with a disability lack this experience and are hurting even more during these social distancing times as their personal connections are already limited.
During these scary times I see a lot of kids outside being physically active and it makes me think if this pandemic had occurred when I was younger I would have turned to running to make things easier. Running then helped me relax and an added bonus would have been hearing Jim yelling humorous and encouraging comments from his porch every time I would run by his house. Therefore after each run I would have realized I was going to get through the hard times.
Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be sports as clubs, arts, and music programs lead to similar benefits. Personally I am just a strong believer that sports are the best for building personal connections given it is everyday and highly structured. Through my experiences I believe that the practices, team dinners, and the bus rides allow for this to happen. However, what is the most important is that you find an activity that interests you as each option will have an incredibly positive effect.
While this seems hard, I have such confidence that experiences like this will lead to special relationships and a larger support system which will help you get through the hard times. I will always treasure my relationship with my coach and my running friends and how much they cared for me. Given our current times, this is especially important as everyone is facing difficulties and having connections can sure help get through these challenging times.