The In School Program, The New England Patriots, and Harvard University. Each year we celebrate our athletes with whom we train throughout the school year. These students are primarily from Boston Public Schools and the Cotting School of Lexington, Massachusetts. The skills of these athletes are varied. Everyone is compelling, given the gifts, challenges, abilities, and disabilities within each. We train in the spaces that are available. Sometimes we are in gyms and other times cafeterias, auditoriums, and even hallways. We use game systems and drills that push these high school aged students to be and see themselves as true athletes. Our athletes are rarely in any spotlight or recognized formally. This is why, each year, we celebrate them with a football clinic at Harvard University with volunteers from the football team and players from the New England Patriots.
200 of our athletes crowd into Harvard Stadium and go through skill stations designed by our staff in conjunction with the University football team and professional players like quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, safety Patrick Chung, and receiver Devin Lucien. Our Honorary Board Member, Bill Belichick, often attends and also invites many of our athletes to training camp each year. The point of this day with recognized elite athletes and champions is to appropriately recognize our athletes and their “elite” status. Without condescension, we push and prod these students in workouts throughout the year. Our friends from the Patriots and Harvard Football seem to easily assume the same training posture. Many who are new to the community of people living with disabilities take time to understand that most are not fragile and that everyone, without exception, can find a meaningful and appropriately tough training zone. In truth, because of the sheer numbers at these clinics, we more celebrate our athletes than train with the intensity of our weekly sessions. Still, these football elite and professional football players quickly learn how to challenge our athletes.
When New England Patriots come to our events, media follows. This year was no exception. At least seven print media and television stations were represented. Over the course of the clinic the Patriots were asked most of the questions but a few teachers, students, and I were interviewed. I can see how easily athletes offer stock answers to questions. I was given the somewhat expected question of: “What does it mean to see all of these athletes and students smile at this clinic?” I was about to say something like “Everything” and then realized that smiles come easily in this program. What’s more remarkable and harder to attain is the determined look or the look of fatigue and appropriate exhaustion when our athletes train as they are capable. I gave that as an answer in not so eloquent terms to the reporters.
Regardless, that is something we hope to see in our programming. Smiles do come so easily in this great community. AccesSport is like home. Truly AccesSport is home for so many of us. But here we love to see athletes meeting our training challenges with determination and unique skills. Then we like when we can celebrate them for real, substantial accomplishments.