Over the years I have been asked how I managed to be a three season runner and more importantly to be so respected by everyone despite having an NVLD and a Seizure Disorder. What comes to mind is how my coach, Penny, was so welcoming to me on the Varsity Winter and Spring track teams. She never treated me differently than my other teammates and through this Canton’s coach, John, and other runners became close to me as well. By being so accepted and valued I thrived as an athlete and as a person therefore I greatly believe being part of a team shouldn’t be so rare for someone with an NVLD.
This all started because Coach Casserly had known me from Cross-Country and was so impressed by my determination and perseverance. Having coached cross-country and track for several years he had witnessed several athletes with similar difficulties give up way too quickly. He gave me extra support from the beginning till the end of my athletic career. What is special about this though is he always made sure Penny had already given me my pre and post race race talk as he knew Penny was a fantastic coach and that she was incredible to me.
One of my most memorable moments was being able to lower my time by a minute as for the two of them this was like I had won the race. At first I thought their excitement was too much though I quickly realized it wasn’t as I was always told I couldn’t do varsity sports and these two coaches proved that theory to be wrong in the early years of my track career. As time went on there were other moments like this for the many different races I ran and Penny and John were always giving me fantastic guidance and advice despite knowing I was always going to be slower than everyone else.
Due to the nature of my gross motor skills deficits along with a seizure disorder I never really got close to the performance level of the other distance runners despite my hard work. However for Penny and John too this was truly just a minor issue as what really mattered was that you did your best and did whatever you can to help the team and for me it was just to earn a point for finishing each race. It truly taught me that success has a different meaning for every individual and hard work can truly outweigh overall talent at times. Honestly I learned so much from distance running under their guidance and in the process was able to overcome the gross motor and social deficits connected to my NVLD too by competing regularly and being with a great group of teenagers on a daily basis.
Understanding this led to me becoming close to a few top runners. An example of this was during Winter track. The regular winner of the 1500 who ran for John always wished me good luck and waited for me at the finish line. This continued throughout my high school career and she was joined by one of her teammates Cara and today the two of us are still great friends. Therefore I just wish more would understand how inclusion in a sport like track works so well as coaches and others love the most determined and supportive athlete and understand that success is all about doing your best.
Therefore by Penny and John being incredible mentors to me, and other runners supporting me and having some became great friends, I believe inclusion works for individuals with an NVLD or a similar disability in sports. This being said inclusion doesn’t just happen. It requires hard work on your end and being able to trust and listen to your coaches. This starts by being honest about yourself and setting up realistic goals with your coach. With an excellent work ethic and high level of determination I can say with great confidence that coaches will become incredible mentors and many athletes will be come wonderful friends to you too.
Overall it is important to remember it truly takes a village to raise a child so being and being an athlete increases the size of your village as your coaches and teammates support you. For me, Penny and John’s endless guidance and support enriched my life greatly so I strongly believe through hard work and determination you will have the same feelings about your own coaches and other coaches you meet. The same can be said about the friendships you will make with your teammates and other athletes. So think of giving it a try. I know you will think the world of your mentors and friends.
Eileen is a Project Social Ambassador and blogger for The NVLD Project. She loves helping others understand they can achieve their goals and dreams through hard work and dedication.Share your own story