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

Jesse Billauer: Adaptive Surfing World Champion & Founder of Life Rolls On

Jesse Billauer Twitter

Jesse Billauer Photo Credit: Twitter

Introducing adaptive surfing world champion and founder of Life Rolls On, Jesse Billauer. This interview is short and sweet, but full of insights to living life passionately.

Name: Jesse Billauer

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

What sports do you play? I enjoy surfing and fishing. That’s what I do.

World Champion Photo Credit: Life Rolls On

World Champion Photo Credit: Life Rolls On

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? Last weekend, I won the first adaptive world surf championship. I also started Life Rolls On, a non-profit  organization that offers quality of life programs because after getting injured I wanted to give back to the community. We run “They Will Surf Again’” and “They Will Skate Again” programs across the country.

What is your sports story? I was growing up as a surfer on the verge of being professional, and then I got injured. But now, I continue to surf around the world. I’ve surfed in Morocco, Australia, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Hawaii.

Jesse in the barrell. Photo Credit: isaworlds.com

Jesse in the barrell. Photo Credit: isaworlds.com

What’s your mantra that keeps you going? I always have something to look forward in life, whether it’s a nice day or a good swell rolling in.

How would you define ability? Ability is following your passion and being active in life.

How would you define grit? Reaching down in your heart and doing the best that you can.

What advice do you have for other athletes? Just continue to be better.  Practice, learn and ask people questions. Then, go out there and do what you love.

What superpowers do you possess? Superpowers…I pay attention to details like people’s emotion feeling and my surroundings.

How can people get involved with Life Rolls On? They can go to LifeRollsOn.org. They can come out to volunteer, participate or even donate.

Who would you like to thank? My friends, families and sponsors.

Any other additional comments: Never give up on your hopes and your dreams. When you think there is nothing out there for you, there is always an opportunity out there for everybody.

Check out more on Jesse’s surfing sports story: 

Videos to Make You Believe ANYTHING is POSSIBLE

Thank you Kanya Sesser and Zack Bastian for introducing me to Jesse Billauer and Life Rolls On. Yes, they will surf again because ANYTHING is POSSIBLE!

Thank you Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham for your persistence and showing the world how you can land a double-back flip in your chair. Yes, ANYTHING is POSSIBLE!

Thank you Seth Schaeffer for sharing“Renegades” by X Ambassadors and believing it should be theTeam Possible theme song. Yes, ANYTHING is POSSIBLE!

If you have a video of awesomeness that makes you believe ANYTHING is POSSIBLE, please send it to me.

Keep believing in the possible!

Jen

Zack Bastian: Believer in Endless Abilities

Endless Abilities Crew Photo Credit: RI Monthly

Endless Abilities Crew Photo Credit: RI Monthly

Introducing Zack Bastian, an adaptive sports enthusiast, who stars in the documentary film, Endless Abilities. In the film, Zack introduces the audience to athletes across the country and demonstrates how sport can be a equalizing and unifying force for people of all abilities.

Name: Zack Bastian

Hometown: Kingstown, Rhode Island

Zack's ski jump Photo Credit: EndlessAbilities.org

Zack’s catching some air while skiing. Photo Credit: EndlessAbilities.org

What sports do you play? Well…I don’t play any sports, but I do sports. The first adaptive sport I got into was surfing. But recently, I have gotten into stand-up paddle boarding. Obviously, I sit-down.  So, it is sit-down paddle boarding, but it is the same SUP board. I got into it because the waves here in New England are just not that consistent for surfing, and there is so much coastline to explore. I also downhill ski. You can see that in the film.

Zack preparing for 10 mile road race in Rhode Island. Photo Credit: Rhode Race

Zack preparing for 10 mile road race in Rhode Island. Photo Credit: Rhode Race

This summer I got into pushing to get into shape. I haven’t technically been in a wheelchair race yet, but I did just do a 10 mile road race here in RI. I never imagined myself getting into push-rim racing. I was into way cooler sports like downhill skiing and stuff. Then, I got into running for exercise and now I am addicted to it. I love the release of endorphins and the feeling of speed.

Zack B. surf (1)

Zack shredding it. Photo Credit: EndlessAbilities.org

Zack’s Reflection on Surfing: Surfing is an expression, not just a sport. It is an expression of yourself. And when you get to the beach, your disability is really highlighted. You know, you don’t usually see lot of wheelchairs on the beach. Then, you have to have people help you swap out of your chair. Next, you drag yourself out until the water gets a little deeper. Once the depth of water covers the fin of the board and you can hop on, it all changes. All of sudden, you’re like “Bam!,” my disability is gone. You’re paddling out into the waves, and then shredding it. Now, everybody who has been watching you as a “handicap”person has their perspective shifted. They see you as a surfer now and are like “Whoa!” 

What superpowers do you possess? I don’t think I have superpowers. But let me think about it… I’ve got one. I think a lot of people have this one, but it does’t mean it isn’t a superpower. There are also a lot of people who don’t have this superpower. It’s resilience. 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.

The Crash Reel Photo Credit: Amazon.com

The Crash Reel Photo Credit: Amazon.com

What films inspire you? The Crash Reel is a film that totally inspired me. It is documentary about  Kevin Pearce, an extreme snowboarder, who had a crash that changed his life. The film documents his rehab process, and it directly reflected the process I went through when I slowly learned that I would never walk again. 

What songs would be on a film playlist? It all depends on what the film was about. The emotions always need to match the music. A good film has happiness, defeat, sadness, and triumph. I would pick the best song for each emotion.

What songs are on your workout play list? I have been listening to a lot of hip hop when I run. You know, it is fast moving. I really like this question… so are you ready?

1. Lykke Li’s “I know Places” and “No Rest for the Wicked.” These songs are in The Crash Reel.

Reckoning Song/ Song Day Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Reckoning Song/ Song Day Photo Credit: Amazon.com

2. Santigold’s “Radio.” She’s just awesome, and I’m really into her music right now.

3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “10,000 Hours” 

4. “One Day (Reckoning Song)”* by the Mojos This one is awesome! Put a BIG star next to that one.

5.  “I Can’t Stop” by  Flux Pavalion It’s a dub step song. It’s like a snowboarding song.

6. “Intro” & “Outro” by M83

That’s my stuff, right there.

Henry Ford Quote

Henry Ford Quote

What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? My mantra is to be the best that I can be. One of the things I tell myself a lot and is on my dad’s gravestone is: Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.  So, I try to realize when I am having negative thoughts and get them out of my head.

“Just do it.” I know it sounds cliche like the Nike saying, but really just go out there and do it. Don’t make excuses. You have to have positive thoughts. I’m not sure if this is a mantra, but it is definitely the way that I live. I focus on the present and the future. The present and the future are what keep you going.

How would you define ability? I would define ability as a state of mind. My dad had it right, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you’re right.” He was totally right. If you put it into your head that you can do something, then you can do it. Ability is in your mind and in your soul. And really, there are endless abilities!

Endless Abilities Poster Photo Credit: EndlessAbilties.org

Endless Abilities Poster Photo Credit: EndlessAbilties.org

What do you hope the audience will gain from your film? Inspiration. I know there are conflicting views on inspiration when associated with disabilities, but there is inspiration in the adaptive sports movement. As Judge Richard Bernstien recently said at a viewing of Endless Abilities in NYC, “Civil rights movements have always needed inspiration. You need inspiration and education.”

So, I hope the film does two things: First, it inspires someone in a hospital bed beginning the rehab process to keep going. Second, since it is viewed by more people without disabilities, I hope the film shifts how they view disabilities and that they are inspired by what they see. When you see people overcoming adversity, it is inspirational.

What advice do you have for others? I was asked to mentor this young guy because he recently got hurt in a dirt bike accident. I told him in one of our first meetings that this would be a give and take relationship because we both can learn from each other. But some of the things I like to share with him is to help him look at all the things he CAN do. You need to find things you love and you can do. For anyone facing adversity in life, you need to stop thinking “This is where was I,” but, “Where am I now? And, where am I headed?”

Jesse Billbauer Article Photo Credit: Ability Magazine

Jesse Billbauer Article Photo Credit: Ability Magazine

Who would you like to thank? Oh, my gosh…The list goes on and on and on… Really, the list goes on and on….Well, there are so many people who have contributed to who I am like my parents, family, friends from childhood, and others like Jesse Billauer, whose article inspired me. I don’t want to leave anyone out, but the ones I need to thank the most are my producers in the film, Tripp Clemens, Harvey Burrell, and Will Humphrey. When they saw that I had a story to tell, they helped me develop it. It was the biggest break or piece of luck that I have had in my life. Not only did it give me the opportunity to be  part of something so great in the film, but it created in me the desire to help and to be a part of something bigger.

A running

A running “zelfie” with a message. Photo Credit: Zack Bastian