Cerebral palsy has had a major impact on my life as well as the people important to me. A negative outlook is easy to have when thinking about living with a disability. Often I visualize myself without cerebral palsy, and it feels so real. But I know I wouldn’t experience the terrific opportunities as I do now if I didn’t have cerebral palsy. Hockey marks one of the reasons that I feel happy to live the life that I live.
Do not get me wrong, cerebral palsy is not an easy thing to live with every day. In my opinion, the hardest thing about having cerebral palsy is not being able to use the bathroom independently. I absolutely hate having to ask for help, or having to hold it if I am with someone who can’t take me. I also wish that I could feed myself because that just would be amazing to do. But everything else that limits me is not too difficult to handle.
I used to bowl in my middle and high school years. I enjoyed the competition angle of being able to play and be judged based on my ability. The only thing I didn’t like about bowling was that I couldn’t play it completely independently. My dad would have to put my bowling ball on the bowling ramp, so I could push the bowl down.
Joining a power chair hockey team was the perfect fit for me in an unexpected way. My only regret was not knowing about the hockey team a whole lot sooner. Hockey is both competitive and fun. I can play independently after someone mounts my hockey stick. We are judged based on our performance that we do as an individual and as a team. Friendships are made, and a family is quickly formed.
Hockey has opened the door to many experiences for me. I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t have cerebral palsy I wouldn’t ever play hockey, so I owe cerebral palsy for this experience. I’ve traveled to Ottawa, Canada, to play in a hockey tournament. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet famous hockey players, go to a Philadelphia Flyers game, play in the WellsFargo center, play against Philadelphia Flyers alumni, and make several friends.
Most importantly, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to play a game that I hardly even understood. Playing power chair hockey isn’t a simple sport to play. For someone who has athetoid cerebral palsy, a lot of physical and mental aspects go into playing. I need to control my hand to stay on the joystick, even in high stress situations, and have fast reactions to game changes. It is also important that I am able to get my mind and body to cooperate together as one, which isn’t easy when your body has its own mind.
Last Saturday my team, the Philadelphia PowerPlay, was made an official branch of the Philadelphia Flyers. This is an amazing opportunity for our team, and we are the very first power chair hockey team to become part of the NHL. Now we are called the Philadelphia Flyers Powerplay! Our website has information about our team and how to join if you’re interested in becoming a team member.
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