I remember the first time I felt it. I was five and my older brother had just passed down one of his Gator football jerseys to me. Growing up as the only girl in my entire extended family, I was head over heels for sports right away. And at the age of five, I was convinced I’d be QB1 for the Florida Gators one day.
As a child, I didn’t realize this wasn’t going away.
As a kid, I just figured I’d grow out of it. That one day I just wouldn’t be stuck in a walker, wheelchair, or confined to crutches. One day I actually would be running on the soccer field.
I remember the first time it hit me. It hit me that I have Cerebral Palsy. It hit me that I will be dependent on some sort of assistive device for my entire life. It hit me that I wouldn’t be on the soccer field…ever.
I remember what it felt like when I realized that my sports obsessed dreams were impossibly out of my reach. But I just couldn’t shake it. Sports, that is. It was my dream. And I had to find a way in. When I finally decided to go to UF, I knew I was entering a historic SEC institution, known for the impact it has had on the sports world. At this point, I knew and accepted the fact that I would never run or play sports.
Believe me, I’ve tried to hate sports so I could move on with my life.
But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do with my life than be surrounded by sports. I’ve been obsessed with the ESPN series E:60 for a while. And once I realized that somebody had to craft those stories, I knew I had found my way in. My sights were locked in on Sports Journalism.
I started at UF this year on the Sports and Media Journalism Track, nervous how people would perceive a kid on crutches dedicating her life to things she’ll never be able to do herself.
I’m a disabled kid in the world of Sports Media. Does it feel weird sometimes?
When I tell people my major sometimes they give me a weird look. Or when I grab my two crutches and walk into a class, I can feel their stares.
I get it, it doesn’t look like it makes sense. But let me assure you, it does.
My most watched Netflix series is 30 for 30. If I’m in Orlando on a Saturday, you’ll find me in Camping World Stadium at the Orlando City or Orlando Pride game. If I’m in Gainesville, of course you’ll find me in the Swamp. I own more Nike than an outlet mall, and my jersey collection is growing. WatchESPN is bookmarked on my Mac and I’ve watched almost all the E:60 segments, many several times. I follow the MLS and NWSL like a freak and I love College Football season almost as much as Christmas. But really, put on any sport and I will watch.
My dream? My dream is to write all of the inspiring sports stories like E:60 does. Basically, I want Tom Rinaldi’s job every Saturday morning on College GameDay.
My dream isn’t necessarily to be a sideline reporter or know the analytics of every team backwards and forwards, although I will do whatever it takes to get where I want to be.
My dream is to tell the sports stories that not everyone sees.
To show people that there’s so much more to sports than just the game on your TV. That within the athletes and the teams, the big games and the epic wins and losses, there is a human story going on.
My dream is also that physically challenged people like myself will be taken seriously in the world of sports. I’ve already gotten a taste of it, and my goal is to change that.
Yes, we’ve never played sports. But we are capable of knowing just as much as you and I guarantee you, we probably do. And we see things that you don’t.
Yes, I get funny looks, like what I’m doing doesn’t make sense. But to me it does. This will be my 11th published article for Fresh U. Most of them having something to do with sports. To me, what I’m doing makes total sense.
I am totally capable despite the fact I have my physical challenges.
So to UF, thank you for making my dreams accessible. I’m excited to be a Gator.
To ESPN, I’ll see you in a few years. Mark my words on that one.
To everyone who thinks I’m crazy, I might be.
To all the people who think I can’t do it, sit back, grab your popcorn, and watch me.
Yes. I will never play sports. But I’m dedicating my career to it.
And honestly? I couldn’t be more excited.
Lead Image Credits: Lisa Ellis