Initially, I felt different and wondered. ‘My teammates run without walkers or braces, why am I the only one?’
But as practice dragged on, my sense of difference eased. Third graders don't normally give the rude side eye to anyone or make judgments. My teammates were nice to me, even though I may have appeared different or struggled to keep up. We learned to communicate and coordinate with one another to move the ball. During drills, I made others laugh with jokes and funny moves, and they replied with huge smiles on their faces. Their glow warmed me inside.
I was a Sam Wilson, trying everything to keep up in a sea of Steve Rogers. My Cerebral Palsy slowed me down, but did not stop me from doing all the team drills. After a day of sweat, grim and tears, I drank Sunny D’s with my fellow third graders, and that gave me a sense of unity. At times, the coach would have us do mock games. We made mistakes and received lots of ‘constructive feedback’ from the coach, but at the end, we all laughed after realizing how scraped-up we all got.
Over the spring months, I became part of the team. We shared inside jokes as we headed to our parents for pick up. Ultimately, no one was left out from having a fun game. During matches, we did our team huddle to show equal sportsmanship to the opposing team, no matter who won or lost.
What was there to lose? No one judged or pitied me. We were just happy to be there and play. I pushed myself to keep up, and they accepted me as a team member.
The practice field is where I learned not to let my Cerebral Palsy limit me from having fun and creating bonds of friendship. It also taught the values of perseverance and grit. No matter what your background, everyone can contribute in their own way and become part of something great.