- Interviewed Winter 2019
Q: Tell me a bit about what you’ve been doing.
A: I have recently been selected to the Alberta provincial team for Wheelchair Rugby, so I have been keeping super busy with that! I tried the sport about three years ago and loved it but was busy with two other sports, so fitting a third one in was a bit unrealistic! So, in May 2018 I decided to focus solely on wheelchair rugby and have been having a great time learning the sport and have proven myself to be good enough to be selected to represent Alberta. We recently returned from Vancouver and played some amazing teams and now are looking forward to training and practising to compete this May at Nationals in Ottawa.
Q: What drives you?
A: The main driver is the fact I love being active and now with so many opportunities to get involved in adaptive sports, I make sure I participate when and where I can. I also want to prove to myself that I can do the sport or activity despite my physical limitations. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how my body will move and function within the sport/activity, as well as see if there are adaptive devices I can use to make things easier. Doing this opens your mind up to so many new possibilities and ideas.
Q: Could you tell me about what you do to push yourself?
A: I do my best to create a balance in all activities both related to and not related to sport. With sport, I train with the team but also allow myself other methods of training like going for a bike ride, a swim or weight training at the gym. I have found this provides benefits for body, mind and spirit. Outside of sport I also makes sure I find time to spend with friends and family and never forget that without their words of support when things were tough or without them cheering in the stands I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Q: What kind of activities do you do?
A: Swimming and cycling add to my busy schedule. I have hiked in the mountains a few times with friends and that’s something I’d like to do more.
Q: What sports did you play as a child, and how did they go?
A: I played volleyball in junior high, but that only lasted one school year. It seemed I wasn’t too sure of what I was good at yet – that came later on in life.
Q: Did you play any adaptive sports earlier in your life?
A: I tried skiing with a disabled group when I was quite young. It wasn’t enjoyable for me unfortunately. I was skiing without poles and my artificial leg at the time wasn’t built for skiing so the entire experience wasn’t pleasant.
Q: Were there any particularly hard times?
A: There most certainly was. I was bullied in both elementary and junior high which most certainly took its toll on me during those formative years. I can recall the feeling of frustration, anger , along with plenty of tears shed and questions of ‘why me?’. However, if it wasn’t for family and friends rallying around me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Q: Are they any particularly good times?
A: I can say there are many and they outshine the bad. I’ve learned to ensure to keep my sense of humour when dealing with my disability. When I have moments where I am struggling with certain tasks - even simple ones like picking up a phone or putting my leg on, I have dubbed those days as ‘No Hand Days’. When I share that with friends and family (or even strangers), I often hear, ‘but you don’t have hands every day!’ and I reply, but today I am actually noticing it.
Q: Do you doubt yourself now?
A: I sure do, but the key is not letting it consume you. And that, on certain days, is easier said than done. When I get into that space I know I can reach out to family, friends, coaches or other para athletes to seek advice on how to manage the doubt. I know that going through a time of doubt is a learning experience and will add to the journey.
Q: How have support networks helped you through this?
A: Everyone in my life has always let me know they are there for me no matter what and I ensure I take them up on that offer! So many words of support from other athletes, friends and family have been exchanged, either one on one with a group or even at breakfast a local diner. The War Amps have been with me since I was eight years old and without them I most certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
Q: Do you think you are able as anyone else to do what you want? Are you content with what you have been able to achieve so far?
A: do think I am able as anyone else, I just ensure to recognize and acknowledge that I do things differently. When I am participating in a new activity with others, I will tell them that my mechanics are different than theirs and may take me longer to do something. Or I may not have the same endurance to as I have an artificial leg. Everyone gets it.
I am content and am looking forward to what the future holds.
Q: Do you have anything you would like to say to parents?
A: Have open and honest conversations with your kids. Let them feel what they feel no matter how frustrating and potentially heart breaking it may be. I recall a conversation with my parents when I was very young and they said: You have a choice – you can either accept who you are, or not. What do you think is the better option? It was a simple question and a lot to process at a young age, but it allowed me to put things into perspective. It drove me forward. I unfortunately had seen fellow amputees struggle with their disability and it broke my heart, so I wanted to ensure I overcame the potential tough times.
Q: Is there anything you want to say to the kids who might be reading this?
A: Don’t be afraid to try new things, allow yourself to have fun and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I am still learning to accept my mistakes as a 45-year old man, but I do know it’s a part of the adventure and journey. Also remember to lean on your friends and family when you need help or when you want to ask a tough question. There are so many resources available to help you.