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

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

6 Ways Team Possible Has Impacted My Life

Team Possible is dedicated to highlighting the abilities of athletes who play adaptive sports. The sports story of each athlete, coach or family is meant to EDUCATE, INSPIRE and EMPOWER readers. However, I cannot ignore the impact that meeting these incredible athletes has had on my own life. Here are six ways I have changed as a result of this research and writing:

Nick Blocking

Nick Springer playing against Japan in 2008 Paralympic Games. Photo Credit: CBS News/ U.S. Paraympics

1. I push myself harder than ever before. At 6 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, you can find me at spinning class. The instructor is an unrelenting, former Marine-type. You don’t talk. You just hop on your stationary bike and ride. When the music is loud and our drill sergeant screams, “Sprint!” you pedal as fast as you can. As I pump my legs furiously, I close my eyes and imagine myself racing Nick Springer down the court during a gold medal rugby match or

Cortney Jordan in the Womens 200m Individual Medley SM7 race on day 4 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Photo credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Cortney Jordan in London 2012 Paralympic Games. Photo credit: Christopher Lee/Getty Images

pushing like Cortney Jordan swimming to break the world record.

When he orders us to crank it up and attack a huge hill, I take on Kanya Sesser’s confident attitude and say to myself, “I’ve got this!”

Kanya showing her “I Got This” attitude. Photo Credit: Scott James Photography

Kanya showing her “I Got This” attitude. Photo Credit: Scott James Photography

This becomes my mantra, and I repeat to myself over and over until he finally announces, “And, you are there.” Every time, I leave class sweaty, exhausted and totally ready for the day. 

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Nolan and Caitlin in a tree overlooking “The Bathtub” on Hermit Island, Maine. Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

2. I take more risks. This summer when I was camping in Maine on Hermit Island, with Seth and our two kids, we went for a hike along the rocky shore when we discovered “The Bathtub,” a small cove that fills with water during high tide and empties out during low tide. Fortunately, it was almost high tide when we arrived at “The Bathtub.” So, Seth precariously positioned himself on a rocky ledge and jumped into the water claiming it was great fun. Nolan wanted to join in and made the plunge next.  Caitlin, who is always up for an adventure, nearly jumped on her brother as she entered the water. Then, all three looked back at me expecting me to say, “I’ll meet you at the shore on the other side.” But instead, I took off my shoes and did my best lifeguard-style jump into the brisk water. It wasn’t pretty. But, I did it! I took the risk, and it felt great!

Admitting Weakness

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

3. I admit my weaknesses. In the past, I would try to hide my inadequacies. Now, I recognize my many weaknesses because I have finally realized that they are really just skills that I am working to develop into my strengths. I have been finding that when I actually openly discuss challenging areas with others that people want to help me improve. They want to see me succeed and are willing share some advice or even lend a helping hand.

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The Black Binder Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

4. I set goals every day. I write my goals down in a black binder on white-lined paper with colorful pens. I make sure there are no more than three goals on the list per day. Then, I check them off when I reach them. I love that feeling of accomplishment. The next morning, I reflect on my previous lists before crafting my new list. By reflecting on previous goals while also thinking about what I want to achieve in the future, I am able to write goals that keep me moving forward every day.

5. I listen more. I listen more to my children. Their insights are genuine and teach me a lot about myself and the world. I listen more to my friends. Their words are supportive and full of advice. Most importantly, I listen more to myself. My heart seems to know the way.

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Caitlin’s Thank You Note to God (Enjoy the inventive spelling.) Photo Credit: Jen Stratton

6. I keep a “Thankful Journal.” Every night before I go to sleep in a small hard covered journal, I write down what I am thankful for in my life. When I first started the journal, I made the rule that I had to  write at least three items down every night. Now, I can fill nearly half of a page. The other night, I was surprised to find Caitlin in her bed carefully writing on a small piece of note paper. When her pen stopped, she read softly to me: “God, I am thankful for everything.”

If you enjoy reading Team Possible blog posts, and they have impacted your life in some way, please share with me. You are encouraged to comment below or for more privacy you can email me at jlstrattonpossiblebooks@gmail.com. Thank you for believing in the possible!

Jen

My “I’m Not Going Back-to-School” To Do List

SCHOOL-HALLWAY

School Hallway

Everyone is back to school, and I’m not.

I figured it out and every September for 37 years I have been walking in a school door and down glistening hallways to either attend or teach a class. Do I miss it? No. Didn’t I love getting new textbooks to read or greeting my new students with a welcoming smile? Yes. I loved every minute. I will always love the smell of a new book and how the spine creaks when you open it for the first time. I will miss offering my hand to students and watching smiles slowly emerge across their faces. However, now I am doing what all of my teachers and former students taught me to do throughout those 37 years. This September, I am believing in myself and following my heart. So instead of putting on a new outfit and stepping out the door, I am home alone, writing and…loving it 😉

But…the student-teacher in me is a difficult beast to tame. Therefore, I did buy colorful new pens and made plans for the fall that include offering some new features with the blog. Don’t worry, I will continue to interview amazing athletes and share their sports stories. Additionally, I will also continue to share some of my own musings on adaptive sports, change, teaching, writing and my kids.

What’s new? I will share resources like books, films, organizations or other noteworthy items. I will also offer more perspective on the world of adaptive sports by interviewing family members and coaches who support athletes with exceptionalities. My hope is to create a site where athletes are celebrated, families are supported and readers are empowered.

So here is my “I’m Not Going Back-To-School To Do List”:

Endless Abilities

Endless Abilities Photo Credit: EndlessAbilities.org

1. Watch the film Endless Abilities by Windy Films. I LOVE this film! I mean I REALLY LOVE this film! The documentary focuses on the journey of Zachary Bastain and his three friends who travel cross country meeting athletes who play adaptive sports. The people they meet are not elite athletes, but individuals who have found meaning in adaptive sports. What I admire about the film is how honestly Zack tells his story. His genuine desire to share adaptive sports with the world is evident in every scene. Also, the music is fantastic. The only request that Nolan, Caitlin and I have is that Zack and his friends make another film titled More Endless Abilities and include Team Possible members- Nick Springer, Kanya SesserCortney Jordan and Sydney Collier.

Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper Photo Credit: Amazon.com

2. Read Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. This book is a MUST read for all teachers. I hope when you read it that you get out-of-your-mind mad at some of the teachers in the book because all they can see is what a student can’t do based on her disability. Then, I hope you shed tears when eleven year-old Melody uses a communication device for the first time and she is able to share her thoughts with the world. Next, I hope you cheer, laugh and shout, “I knew she could do it!” when she competes to join the school quiz team. Finally, I hope you read Out of My Mind to your students, your children and share it with your friends. As Malala Yousafzai reminds us, “One child. One teacher. One book. One pen can change the world. ”

If you’re still not sure, I did recommend this to one of my absolutely fantastic Springfield College students, Abbie King, to read over the summer with her sister, Maggie. Here is what she had to say about the book:

Abbie & Maggie King

Abbie & Maggie King Photo Credit: Abbie King

Mags and I really enjoyed reading Out of My Mind this summer. She goes to the school that I work at in the summer so we would listen to it on our drives to and from work. When we finished the book she typed on her communication device “it was happy happy love.” She really seemed to enjoy the book…I felt like Maggie was really able to connect with this book since she had very similar abilities to Melody. Growing up she would always scream and cry over the simplest of things since she had no reliable way to tell us what she was thinking. Once she got her first communication device, she became a whole new person. It was as if she was just trapped inside her mind. Now, she is a sassy, independent, brave and fearless young lady.

3. Ask for help. The fall is overwhelming and busy for everyone. I am working on asking for help when I begin to flounder instead of waiting until I am over my head.  I will start now by asking you to share this blog with a friend on FaceBook, Twitter or via email. I would also love help finding resources. Please email me (jlstrattonpossiblebooks@gmail.com) your favorite websites, books, films, organizations, etc. Really, I need your help and want to share your stories. 

Believe in the Possible!

Jen

Kanya Sesser: Adaptive Skier, Surfer, Skateboarder and So Much More

Introducing Kanya Sesser…Track and Field Athlete. Skier. Surfer. Skateboarder. Avid adaptive action sports athlete. She does it all!

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“I Just Do It”  Photo Credit: Scott James Photography

Hometown: Tualatin, Oregon

What sport or sports do you play? I do mono-skiing, track and field, skateboarding, wheelchair tennis, rugby, surfing, sled hockey, and wheelchair basketball. I do lots of sports. I like the ones that are more fast and driven.

Kanya Sesser Skate

Professional Skateboarder Photo Credit: Purpose2Play.com

Professional Surfer Photo Credit: Billabong

Professional Surfer Photo Credit: Billabong

What superpowers do you possess? Superpowers? Can you explain that. Sure, I believe people with exceptionalities develop complimentary superpowers like Nick said that he can come out of any situation with a smile. My son has an amazing memory. Okay, now I get it. I have a positive energy. I have a very good difference. I just give good energy in the room. I’m not hippy or anything like that, but my aura is very bright and calming. For example, whenever I lose in a game or competition I never get mad, I just keep trying. I have really positive vibes.

Track Star Photo Credit: ASMP.org

Track Star Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kanya Sesser

What accomplishments in sports are you most proud of? Track. Most of my accomplishments are in track including the London 2012 Paralympics Games. I like speed. So, I do the 100, 200, and 400. But I also do the 800, 3K and 5K. In 2011 (at the age of 18), I was nominated for the third fastest women’s wheelchair racer. In high school and college I was very happy with track and all of my accomplishments. However, when I was training for the 2012 Games, it became more of a job than what I loved. I am training in track for Rio 2016, but I am really passionate about adaptive action sports. I want to experience life and connect with nature through sports.

What books inspire you? It’s funny the one book I really remember reading is Bethany Hamilton’s book in elementary school for a book report. I loved her and looked up to her. It inspired me. I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, I want to be like her.”  I admired how she adapted and was a survivor. And now, here I am surfing with no legs. I mean… I haven’t gotten bitten by a shark yet, so let’s hope I don’t.

What songs are on your workout playlist? I like Pop Off by Kevin Hart. Kevin Hart is one of my favorite people because he is funny and real. I mostly like listening to rap or something that keeps me going. I don’t really like techno. I like rap or hip-hop that is like “Yeah, I got this.” I like things with good sound and less lyrics. When I do yoga I listen to good streaming sounds like the ocean to keep my mind calm.

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“I Got This” Photo Credit: Scott James Photography

What’s your mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? I’ve got this…I think of myself and imagine myself reaching the goal. I picture myself and think positive. For example, I have a photo shoot next week and I think about how I have to look good for myself. You want to eat right and be healthy. You need to take care of yourself and have a positive life style.

How would you define ability? Wait, let me look that up (she looks it up on her computer and reads the definition aloud… “ to do something.”)  Interesting… I think you can have different definitions of doing something. I just do it. No matter what it is, I don’t really care and I just go for it. Like if there is a big swell, I look at it and think, “I got this.”

What is your sports story? No legs no limits..I am doing all these sports and I am living my life freely with no legs.

Training in the Pool Photo Credit: Kanya Sesser

Training in the Pool Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kanya Sesser

What is your training schedule? My training schedule is usually six in the morning until noon. First, I do track for two hours. Then, I rest for an hour. Next, I either swim or do a low key gym work out depending on how intense I was in my track training. I do yoga when the sun sets, ideally on the beach. It is more calming when the sun is setting. Finally, I meditate or go for a walk and have a smoothie or eat a salad. I don’t know… I am very calm and like to just chill.

What advice do you have for other athletes? If you push yourself through the hard work, the effort, the time and have patience, you will get to your goals. Also, if I ever get badly hurt or injured doing a sport or in a competition, then I know I gave it whatever it takes to get to that next level. 

Who would you like to thank? I would like to thank my mom. Without her, I wouldn’t get this far. To be honest, my mom was the person who looked up all of these different sports. In fact, that woman is lucky because she did travel with me all over the world in high school because of my sports. However, she did do all of my fundraising. If I ever get an ESPY, she is the number one person I will thank. And then, my coaches.

Beauty Defined by Kanya Photo Credit:

Beauty Defined by Kanya Photo Credit: Craig Solomon

Do you have any other additional comments? The thing I have been thinking about during this interview and that I want to change is how beauty and body image are defined. Being beautiful needs to be defined in your own way. I want people to understand love, relationships and beauty for people with disabilities.

This final thought sparked a longer conversation. In fact, throughout the interview there were many side conversations from prosthetics, to not buying shoes, to how girls develop their understanding of body image. This interview even led to further conversations about writing a book to fully tell Kanya’s story. It is remarkable story of strength, beauty and ability. Give us some time and we will reveal all of it to you. Until it is on the bookshelf, you can check out these interviews and articles.

Billabong Sponsored Trip to California

News Coverage about Photo Shoot