Over the years I continue to say that my track coach, Penny, is such a special person in my life. This is because rather than modifying all parts of the sport for me, she decided to use different coaching methods with me so I could be successful as she knew the potential was there but understood it would require more time for me to reach it. The truth is, Eagle Hill School’s (a private boarding school for bright Learning Disabled students) quote “Learning Differently Demands Teaching Differently” applies to coaching too, and Penny saw that. This meant a lot to me as in other hard situations teachers modified their expectations of me which led to me not achieving fully what I could have.
For example when I first joined the track team, Penny knew running shorter distances was necessary for a few years for me. She also knew I was going to need to be near her on the bus and at the meets as I needed more direction my first year given my social deficits. At the time, this bothered me somewhat but I totally accepted it and was able to listen to whatever directions she gave me. This resulted in me being able to become a regular distance runner which made me fully appreciate Penny’s coaching choices with me.
There were times though when she thought she was pushing me too far and was creating a health problem as at the time I was experiencing seizures. However, rather than her telling me I couldn’t do this, she kept a close eye on me which allowed me to navigate the bumps in the road and I kept coming back for more. This resulted in me being able to run every distance race she needed me to and each meet our goal was to keep improving my time which I did often. None of this would have happened without her belief in me. She knew the potential was there but needed to teach things differently while coaching me.
In addition, by Penny helping me unlock my true potential, I was socially more connected with both my teammates and other runners in the field. As a result, my self-confidence grew significantly and I learned how to support everyone in the field, especially those who ran the same races as me. This was something I would have never been able to do on my own and it made me realize that the social support she gave me made all the difference. It meant so much as she knew I would understand the importance of sportsmanship and that I just needed more direction than others.
Due to the incredible support Penny gave me, I greatly believe that students with an NVLD or a similar disability are still underestimated. I truly believe those with an NVLD can achieve great success but in many situations it will take a little longer. One of the ways you can help others see your true ability is by talking to your coach or teachers ahead of time about your challenges and to make suggestions for how you will be successful. For example my parents and Penny discussed ways for track to be more successful and the decision was to hire a college student to run with me. My parents strongly agreed I needed it not only to increase my endurance but to also improve my social communication skills too. This resulted in Penny seeing her belief that I was a hard worker and had great family support was true, which allowed her to work closely with me so I could gain the required skills to stay with track which I did through graduation. Therefore I believe with open communication and a strong work ethic you will gain a wonderful mentor of your own.
Overall in each situation it is so important to show a deep interest to succeed and respect those working with you. Teachers and coaches too will see your true potential and want to connect more with you. It certainly is a process but by trusting each decision and working hard you will find someone who is as special to you as Penny is to me. So remember, if someone is using different methods while working with you but holding you to the same requirements they hold for others never question them since as I said in the beginning “Learning Differently Demands Teaching Differently’. The end result will bring great success and will allow you to have someone as special in your life as Penny is in mine and you will be grateful they always saw your true potential.
I greatly believe everyone with an NVLD needs an adult like Penny in their lives!