My name is Cassidy; I am 20 and I have cerebral palsy. Being in a wheel chair is no walk in the park, and early in my life I had trouble coming to grips with my limitations. The early years consisted of surgeries and brutal physical therapy, and I felt like I was living in an eggshell trying to break out by myself. Trying to make life meaningful and not be defined by my chair was a lot to wrestle with, but there was one thing that I loved, and that was sports.
Having four brothers and all of them playing sports was a blessing in disguise for me, because no matter what was going on with me, we always ended up at a ballpark, a field or a court! This gave me the opportunity to put the blinders on to all the stares and questions about my life and to imagine myself in the heat of battle, feeling that adrenaline when they made a great play, and even the heartbreak of losing a close one. It was so great for me because I was able to be with my brothers and their team and dream that one day I would be on the field experiencing all the emotions of competition.
That awesome day came when I was eight years old. My mom came in my room and said ‘how would you like to play sports! I looked at her like a deer in headlights not understanding what she meant and said ‘oh my god are you serious’ she said ‘yes you’re going to get to do what you’ve always wanted’. My smile was so big that if you looked to long it would blind you. When she left I thought I had just won the lottery and couldn’t wait to get on the field. The first thing we did that made it feel real was my dad took me to Dicks Sporting Goods to get my sports gear. Being able to try on different helmets, batting gloves, and seeing what baseball bat felt most comfortable for my patented one-armed swing. I felt like a kid in a candy store, able to feel like my brothers and getting the same opportunity they had even with my limitations.
That Saturday was the moment I had always been waiting for, being able to roll on that field and play a game that I love watching for a long time! I had the biggest butterflies because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything that I wanted no matter what! Of course I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. My 1st at bat is something I will never forget, rolling into the batters box, heart thumping out of my chest, gripping the bat so tight like my life depended on it. My dad floated the ball and I swung so hard that when I connected the vibration of the bat made my hand sting. I was so happy I made contact and it was a good hit, that I almost ran into one of the volunteers coaching 1st base. It was one of the coolest moments of my life! I realized that I belonged and could do anything I wanted to!
That was just the beginning, as a got stronger as a hitter I was able to go play with the bigger kids twice my age who could hit the ball out of the ballpark. In turn that made me push myself even more to become better at every aspect of my game. Another cool thing was we were all unique in our own way. I was able to create many bonds with the players, making me more confident in myself. I realized that I wasn’t the only one that had something different about them. So not only did I get to play a sport that I loved, I learned a lot of things about life and myself in general.
The next sport that I played was football and man was that a great experience it wasn’t the rough and tumble tackling that we are all used to seeing.However it was so cool being able to do something that I never thought possible. The first time I touched the ball was probably on the 5-yard line. When I got the handoff and was able to get in the end zone I did the Rob Gronkowski spike. It was so awesome; I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face! It was amazing having my whole family experience that moment with me. My mom, who was getting the play by play screaming and my brothers jumping on me, was priceless! I will never forget how great I felt. I told my brother afterwards ‘I am so glad I didn’t fumble that ball’. He laughed and said me too.
Football also gave me the opportunity to meet people I never thought I would like Panthers players Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil. Instead of freezing up like popsicle, I was able to carry on a conversation and that had never happened before I started playing sports. Although I didn’t play football for long, I was able to meet new people and have memories that I will never forget.
Lastly, I tried my hand at wheelchair basketball, which was the most difficult sport for me. Since being the only one in a wheelchair on the team, I kind of fish out of water. However that didn’t stop me from learning how to dribble for 30 seconds and make one-handed baskets! I was amazed with the things I was able to do and after coming out sweating bullets after every practice, the work really paid off. It was an awesome that taught me that no matter what situation you’re in; hard work gives you great results! Basketball, being the hardest for me, gave me the biggest reward of overcoming the obstacles. Sports is not only used for entertainment, but is also used to change your outlook on life and attitude about your situation. That’s what sports have done for me and I am so thankful for that. I don’t know where I would be without sports!