Believing in Team Possible

Hello Everyone!

I wanted to start the new year with thanking the many athletes who have shared their sports stories with me. All of you have provided me with new insights and greater motivation to write. I also wanted to thank all of the readers who support Team Possible by sharing posts or leaving comments. According to my “end of year report” from WordPress, your enthusiasm for stories of athletes who redefine ability has fueled this blog to be read by over 8,000 viewers in 77 countries. Although I will not use numbers to define my writing success, it certainly is validating to have nearly 500 followers. However, what encourages me the most are the comments from friends of Team Possible like:

I share all of your posts with my colleagues who are working on an inclusion task force.

I shared your post with my students.

I am designing a playground at work, and because of your posts I am truly integrating the accessibility features for all the children to play together.

I shared your post with a family member who has a child that is exceptional.

My son loves the post about Winter. Now, he has me read it to him at bedtime.

When I get the email about a new post, I save it until I have some time in my day to sit back and read it. They always make me think and reflect.

Think and reflect…I do lots of thinking and reflecting. It is simply part of the writing process. After rereading every interview from 2015, I selected the words from Team Possible members that have truly made me sit back, think and then get moving:

Nick Springer: Strength has nothing to do with what you can do when you are at your best, but what you can do when you are at your worst.

David Yates: They saw Winter and thought, “If this little dolphin can lose her tail and still live a dolphin life, then I can handle my problem.”

Jesse Billauer:  Ability is following your passion and being active in life.

Mackenzie Soldan: Grit is a good word. I would say it is taking a situation and fighting your way through it.

Zack Bastian: I’ve noticed that in my life when things get really bad I have an ability to turn the situation into something positive, and that is my super power. When things get bad, I get inspired to work harder and be better.

Greyson Cage: I wish I had invisibility, teleportability, flight and super speed.

Jim Abbott: We have to challenge ourselves each and every day. You need to ask yourself if you are pushing the limits of your own abilities.

Abby Dunkin: Ability is what you can do and not letting anything hold you back, no matter the circumstances.

Emilia Scovel: What makes a good coach is someone who knows how to make the team believe in each other and makes the team do their best.

Kanya Sesser: I think of myself and imagine myself reaching the goal.

Sydney Collier: Don’t get discouraged. It seems like a long journey and it really is. There are all these ups and downs along the way. Just keep your eye on the goal.

Cortney Jordan: Ability is doing your best and putting all your effort into something. It is demonstrating what you are capable of.

Malat Wei: Always have a positive attitude around your teammates. A positive attitude will get you wherever you want to go in life, and not just in sports.

Nick Newell: I am more of a Batman type guy. I take what I have and make it work.  Then, I go about it the smartest way possible. No superpowers. Just always working with what I have.

Rio Woolf: You can do anything.

Impressive, I know! Those wise and inspiring words have motivated me to keep going and to interview more athletes in the upcoming months. In 2016 you can look forward to meeting more athletes on the Road to Rio and beyond. Since I LOVE children’s book, you can plan for some book reviews, and I may even sneak in a documentary or movie review. Finally, I will weave in a personal essay or two throughout the months. It should be an exciting year. Thanks for joining me.

Keep Believing in the Possible!

Jen

Jr. Team Possible: Greyson Cage and His Family

Greyson Cage Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson Cage Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

“This interview will not be like all of the others,” Nolan stated, as he and Caitlin prepared for their first double interview with their friends, Greyson and Emersynn Cage. He was right. This double interview turned into a family affair.

It all started when I sent the blog to Greyson and Emersynn’s mother, Rhonda, because she is a special education teacher, and I thought she would appreciate the stories being told. Excited by the stories, she read the blog aloud to her kids and to her surprise Greyson asked if he could be interviewed. Here’s the interesting piece… we had no idea that Greyson is a person with an exceptionality and for the first time he wanted to tell us his story.

So we arranged for a interview/playdate. Everyone met at our house and gathered around the table on the back porch. The girls on one side, and the boys on the other. Nolan and Caitlin sat smiling with their highlighted questions in front of them. Greyson and Emersynn sat posed and ready to handle anything.

Emersynn ready to play soccer. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Emersynn ready to play soccer. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What sports do you play?

Greyson: Basketball. Soccer.

Emersynn: Same. Basketball. Soccer.

IMG_7030

Greyson enjoying his favorite food! Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What are your favorite foods?

G: Lobster and crab.

Nolan and Caitlin let Greyson know that they too love lobster.

E: Crab legs, lobster and shepherd’s pie.

Emersynn shares that her aunt makes the best shepherd’s pie.

What books do you like to read?

G: Action and adventure. I like books by Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling and Brandon Mull.

E: Non-fiction animal books.

Caitlin smiles at Emersynn’s response. She is also a non-fiction animal book lover.

Captian America

Captain America Photo Credit: Disney Parks

What movies do you like to watch?

G: Action, action, action and adventure.

Nolan says with a questioning face, “You said action three times.” Greyson responds confidently, “I know. I just really like action movies.”

E: I like all movies except superhero movies.

Nolan stands up and shouts across the table, “Oh! We guessed that! We thought you would like any movies, BUT superhero movies because Caitlin hates anything I like.” Siblings.

Greyson thinking about teleportability. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson thinking about teleportability. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What superpowers do you possess?

G: None. I wish I had superpowers. I wish I had invisibility, teleportability, flight and super speed.

Nolan reflects on Greyson’s response and then asks a follow up question, “Why would you need to fly if you could just teleport?” Greyson explains, “If I was battling someone, I would need to fly and not teleport.” Nolan nods in agreement.

E: My superpower is that I never give up.

Greyson's Awards Collection Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson’s Awards Collection Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of?

G: My trophies from sports and having fun.

E: Having fun and doing my best.

What’s your ultimate sports goal?

G: Play in the NBA.

E: Playing in the World Cup.

Greyson playing basketball. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Greyson playing basketball. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What makes a good teammate?

E: They pass the ball.

G: Same. She’s right.

What makes a good coach?

G: They build up the players confidence by making them work hard.

E: When the coach is a good teacher, like my mom.

It should be noted that her mom, Rhonda, has many superpowers like being an excellent teacher and Emersynn’s basketball coach.

The Dynamic Duo Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

The Dynamic Duo Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What makes a good friend?

G: They are nice. They usually say, ‘What do you want to do?’ and they are nice to guests…like Nolan for example.

FYI: While Greyson is answering this question Nolan is pointing at himself repeatedly.

E: They are nice, respectful, and they play with you.

Playing the guitar is one of Greyson's many abilities. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Playing the guitar is one of Greyson’s many abilities. Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

How would you define ability?

G: Something you can do or something you are trying to work hard at to make it one of our abilities.

E: Yeah, I agree.

What advice do you have for other young athletes?

G: Try hard and do your best.

E: And have fun.

Later, I followed up with their parents, Rhonda and Thomas, to ask them a few questions in hopes to gain a family perspective.

Can you tell me about Greyson’s exceptionalities?

Rhonda: Greyson was diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele (spina bifida) at birth.  It is a neurological disorder. Greyson’s spine is tethered when it should be free flowing. His exceptionality affects his lower extremities (leg discrepancy, foot deformity, scoliosis, and gait abnormality). He also has neurogenic bladder and neurogenic bowel.

Working together Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

Working together Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

As a family, what superpowers do you possess?

Rhonda: We believe that our superpowers are strength (of mind) and resilience. I would love to say patience but to be honest, I’m running low lately.

What is your family’s sports story?

Rhonda: Our sport story, hmm…I would say that our story begins with me. I started off playing basketball and fell in love with the game. I am a strong believer in team sports and what they have to offer in character development. Greyson has been to soccer games, baseball games, and basketball games since birth. He was BORN a fan! I coached my nephew for years and transitioned to Greyson’s coach. I never thought that Greyson couldn’t play sports, and most importantly he didn’t either. I just made sure that I was there to encourage him and support him as his coach and his mother.

The Cage kids are even models! Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

The Cage kids are even models! Photo Credit: Thomas Cage

What advice do you have for other families who have a child or children with exceptionalities?

Rhonda: My advice would be to be your child’s strongest advocate and to encourage your child to advocate for him/herself. Learn as much as you can about his/her exceptionality, and talk about your feelings with family and friends. To truly view your child as exceptional, and not disabled.