High School Sports: One-Handed Athlete Knows No Bounds

It’s kind of funny how some parents know their children so well; even as their kids age, become fathers themselves and are not considered kids anymore, except by their own parents. These clued-in parents just seem to get it. They understand what interests, motivates and inspires their offspring, and they know why. My father represents one of those “knowing” parents; he certainly “gets me.” There is no doubt in my mind about that.

I was vividly reminded of this as I came home from school the other day (I am a teacher by profession) and pulled my mail from the mailbox. On top was a letter from my dad.

Hmm, I thought, it’s not my or my wife’s birthday. He hadn’t gone on any trips or vacations lately so it can’t be pictures, plus, it didn’t feel like pictures. So with great interest I brought the mail inside, set everything down on the table, except that one envelope, and quickly opened it.

Inside was an article from the Tampa Bay Times (dad is retired and lives in Florida, how nice!!!) by John C. Cotey titled, No holding him back (online: Lakewood's Shaquem Griffin maps out a life without limits). At the top of the article was a note scrawled in in black ink:

Kirk, thought you might like to read this. Love Dad

Needless to say, my dad, as usual, was right on the money as he knew that seeing a photo of an athlete doing dumbbell curls without a left hand would intrigue me.

The young athlete pictured had a normal right arm and hand, but his left arm ended in kind of a stub where his hand would have been. In the photo, he had a special strap wrapped around the stub with a chain connected to it, something his farther had made so his son could lift weights. The chain was wrapped around the dumbbell he was curling.

It is a great photo, an inspiring photo. And the article wasn’t any less inspirational as it detailed what had happened to Shaquem before birth to leave him with only one hand, how this situation impacted his life, his parents’ lives, his relationship with his twin brother, and the college athletic interest he was now receiving for football and track. Yep, scholarship money from some as well, at least from what I gathered based on the information presented in Mr. Cotey’s piece.

After finishing the article, I set it down on the table and paused in thought.

Here we have a young man able to tackle a seemingly insurmountable physical obstacle (at least that is how many would view his circumstance) in order to become very good in sports he enjoys. Faced with such an adverse
situation, he finds ways to improve, meet challenges, and do things at a level that able-bodied individuals would have difficulty doing.

Oh yes, he did have help and support from his family, there is no doubt about that. However, there are many others (this young man’s age) who face much less difficulty, with support from either family and/or their school, yet who cannot seem to get a handle on what Shaquem has learned to understand so well. That who he is, how he develops, and who he plans to be, has much more to do with the attitude and perseverance he chooses to bring to the table, the commitment and discipline he chooses to apply to the task at hand, and the desire, heart, and passion he creates within himself.

What a great story, certainly something I can use to help my students see the light, to see what is possible. Yep, will be bringing in that story tomorrow, pin it up on the bulletin board in the gym for all students to see. Let’s just see them tell me how hard it is to jog four minutes in their target zone, stretch, do some sit ups and some pushups after reading this, and have it hold any weight whatsoever.

Good luck with that one!!!


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