A man in a motorized wheelchair is moving across a wooden gym floor with a hockey stick in his hand.

Competing In Sports With SMA

My SMA story begins at the age of two. Up until that time, I was meeting all my physical milestones until one day, my twin sister, Rachel, began walking up the stairs. Instead of following her, I was content with sitting at the bottom of the staircase as I was unable to follow.

I would not climb the stairs with my twin

Even despite the numerous times my parents tried to assist, I still was reluctant and unable to accomplish the simple task of climbing the stairs. It was at this time that my parents grew concerned that something could be wrong and proceeded to schedule doctor appointments.

At first, most of the doctors thought this was just mechanical, and that I would meet this particular physical milestone eventually. However, my parents were still concerned and could not accept the physician's diagnosis.

Finally, a specialist performed an examination and thought this could be a neuromuscular condition and recommended we see a child neurologist. Under the specialist's recommendation, my parents scheduled an appointment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where I received my diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy type 3.

Playing sports

I am currently 20 years old and an undergraduate student at Temple University. I am a hard-working, ambitious, and eager individual looking to tackle any obstacles that stand in my way. I am also a big sports fanatic, who follows the four primary Philadelphia sports teams very closely.

My love of sports began at a very young age. I grew up in a competitive family where both my parents came from athletic backgrounds. One of the first sports I started to play was baseball, however, this became increasingly difficult at the age of 8.

Stopping baseball in elementary school

Unfortunately, I had to stop playing due to the progression of my condition, which made it very difficult for me to walk. Despite my disability, I still loved the game and continued to travel to them to watch my friends play. However, the feeling was never the same as not being able to participate became frustrating.

Discovering wheelchair hockey

Fortunately, my breakthrough came at another appointment at CHOP. My Mom saw a flyer posted on a bulletin board of a power wheelchair hockey team based out of Philadelphia. She removed the thumb tack and asked me if I was interested.

As my eyes scanned the flyer, excitement began to build and after reading it, I told her I was definitely interested. Later that day, she contacted the organization to find out more about the sport and despite my age (minimum age to play was 13 at the time), they invited me to check it out.

A few weeks later, my family and I went to watch. After the first 5 minutes, I was amazed and immediately wanted to play. One of the coaches came up to me and gave me a stick to try out, which I thought meant I was going into the game. Even though I didn't get to play that day, I was hooked and showed up two weeks later which started my journey as a power hockey athlete.

Discovering adaptive sports

I have been with the organization for over 13 years now and have never looked back. We have taken some massive strides becoming the first ever power hockey organization to be affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers, competing in tournaments against teams all across North America, and ultimately winning two championships.

Overall, I cannot say enough about what power hockey means to me. It has provided me with exercise to support my overall health, both physically and mentally. It has allowed me to express my competitive nature and be a part of an organized travel league. In addition, it has allowed me to expand my knowledge and social life within the disabled community, which has made it easier to talk about personal experiences that other league members may have gone through as well.

Building confidence

Not only has power hockey impacted my life within the organization itself, but it has also helped me in my daily life. It has given me confidence whether that be at school, with friends, or any other social functions, but most of all, it has created life-long friendships that will last a lifetime.

I highly recommend any adaptive sport for all people with disabilities and challenges. It can open all sorts of avenues in your life and can even unlock new things about yourself that you were not even aware of. The organization that I play for is called the Philadelphia Flyers Powerplay. Please do not hesitate to follow us on Instagram or Facebook; attached is our team’s official website: https://philadelphiapowerplay.com/

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