Most of us remember our kindergarten teacher, but how many of us left such a positive impression on our teacher that s/he would nominate us years later to be featured on a sports blog? Tristan Carroll is that type of student athlete. He is in fifth grade now and still sees his kindergarten teacher, Judy Bates, regularly.
For Tristan’s interview Nolan, Caitlin and I met up with him and his family at a local park. Instead of getting right to work, the kids first played on the playground together and then after a while gathered on a picnic table to talk about sports and life.
How old are you? I am eleven.
Do you have any pets? No. We had some pets in the past, but they all died.
What foods do you like? Pizza!
What do you like on your pizza? Just cheese.
What books do you like to read? I like to read My Weird School series. They are funny.
What movies do you like to watch? I like action movies and superhero movies.
What is your favorite movie? Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
This led to a big debate about the ending of the movie and the reviews. The kids told me that I can’t share the details of their conversation on the blog because it would spoil the movie for everybody.
What sports do you play? I do speed skating. I play soccer through the Special Olympics*. I do track again through the Special Olympics*.
*Tristan actually plays on unified teams through the Special Olympics because there are limiting offerings in his area for youth with physical exceptionalities. Since many of you may be wondering about the similarities and differences between the Olympics, Paralympics, and Special Olympics. I plan to discuss them in an upcoming blog post. I will also talk about unified sports and the access to adaptive sports programs for youth. Because we know, everyone has a right to play!
What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? I was so proud when I stood up ice skating. I was always falling down, but I finally stood up all by myself. It took a couple of years to learn.
With admiration Nolan confesses he is still learning to stand up on ice skates. Tristan and his younger brother, Porter, then start giving ice skating tips to Nolan about pushing his feet out to the side and the importance of gliding. Tristan concludes with the best advice, “You need to be determined.”
What are your ultimate sports goals? To run a marathon.
Who will you run the marathon with? Porter will run it with me.
What about your mom? Oh my goodness, are you kidding me?
What makes a good teammate? They need to be encouraging. They need to be like, “Go! You can do it!”
What makes a good coach? That they help you improve. They tell you how to get better.
What advice do you have for other young athletes? To never give up. Don’t be afraid to fail. Trust me, I have failed tons of times.
Caitlin responds, “That is really good advice!”
How do you define ability? Something you are really good at.
Porter then asks to share his definition, “Ability means you are physically and mentally able.”
A deep conversation starts with the kids discussing their views on ability, and if people need to be able to do things in the same way. They discuss Rio Woolf running with his prosthetic leg. They discuss Nick Springer playing wheelchair rugby and Tristan learning to ski. Then, Tracey captures all of our ideas in one statement: “If you are mentally able to do something, then you find a way to physically do it. If you think you can’t, you won’t.”
What superpowers do you have? I encourage people. Encouragement is energy.
Porter can’t help but add, “He laughs at everything. He will fall down and laugh.” Tracey agrees, “Yes, he has a good sense of humor. He has always had a good outlook on life.” Tristan smiles proudly and nods.