A Team Sport I Never Saw Coming…

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I am admitting it here: I am a total freak for all things sports.  I like to play ’em.  I like to watch ‘em.  And oh my do I love screaming and cheering from the sidelines when my kids are playing! I grew up spending more time on ball fields than anywhere else.  Now, I am a soccer/basketball/baseball/wrestling/swimming/golf mom, and I love every second of it.

I have more spirit wear for my kids’ school and club teams in my closet than a normal adult should, and I wear it all proudly.  I love the competitions.  I love watching my kids respond to great coaches.  I love seeing the incredible friendships that are made on fields, courts and in the pool lanes.  But most of all, I absolutely love the team aspect: winning or losing, working together as a team to accomplish goals.

Two of my kids are blind – not totally in the dark blind, but “so blind” they read braille, use a white cane, and have no idea what they look like –  so you can imagine my fear for them that they would never be able to participate in team sports.  Ugh… how would they ever know the feeling of winning and losing as a team…. the high fives for the great saves and the pat on the back when it didn’t go right? I feared they would miss out on what had been such a huge part of my life and so many other kids’ lives.  Luckily, we were blessed to find a blind sports program near our home where my boys learned the basics of a few sports and eventually transitioned to the regular sports in our town with only a few accommodations.

As my guys got older, though, kids got bigger, stronger, faster.  My guys were once able to maneuver an indoor soccer court and football field with minimal assistance… but as the years went on it became too unsafe to be involved in many of their favorite pastimes: football and soccer days are over, and my older son can’t play baseball anymore.  They still play some regular sports and they are involved in sports programs for the blind.  However, not wanting to limit their social opportunities at school and in the community, we looked for alternatives for them to participate.

Enter Stage Right:

Luckily, our elementary school has an opportunity each year for the oldest class, the 6thgrade, to be involved in a play.  Lots of the kids join the fun of either performing or being a part of the stage crew.  Some of the kids participate because theater is their passion… but most, like my guys, participate because it is fun and most of their friends are involved.  I was thrilled when my oldest son signed up for the play when he was in 6th grade… it so happened that was the time that his blindness was leaving him on the sidelines of sports and social encounters.  This was a chance for him to socialize with the kids and have something “productive” to do.

My son enjoyed his very, very small role in that little version of “Aladdin” so much that he signed on to be in the 7th grade play at middle school… and it was, oh my, a musical.  The problem was not all of the songs to learn… my guy is a musician, he was fine with that.  The problem, the challenge here, was the dancing, the moving all over the stage with 20+ other kids.  They had to move in unison, while singing, all over the stage and out into the theater! Arms up, arms down, move right, move left, spin, jump, turn, right, left.  Yikes!

My son is a team player in every sense of the word: he had a role in the play and he was going to be as perfect as he could.  He would meet the choreographer early before school to review all the steps of every single number.  After school, he split time between his wrestling team and the show rehearsals and while he was in the rehearsals, he worked hard on meshing his moves with all the other kids.

IMG_5739When opening night came I was sick with worry: I had not seen any rehearsals because my son wanted to surprise me.  He assured me he had perfected his role.  When the curtain opened and I watched him sing and move all around the stage it took my breath away.  I watched and worried that he’d crash into one of the other actors, or fall off the stage (I am sure he is cringing reading this and thinking “thanks for the confidence, Mom”) He didn’t crash or fall.  In fact, he was magnificently right on cue, for an hour and a half.   I went to every single performance and relaxed more and more knowing that he would nail it every single time.

It took me a few more shows (he went on to be in Les Miserables in 8th grade and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 9th) to realize that while my son perfects his role in the play, everyone else, while perfecting their own roles, is also working to be sure my son hits his mark every time.  If you watch closely, you notice that different actors have different cues for him to be sure he gets to where he needs to be on stage.  During song and dance numbers, you can see someone gently tap my son’s shoulder to cue a move in that direction.  When there is a lot of movement on the stage, you will notice someone guide my son’s arm – the arm not facing the audience.  You have to look closely to see it, and I guess because I am the panicked mom I notice it.  But that is only part of the time… the bigger aspect in the process is that while my son is counting every step from one mark to another, the other actors have to be reliable in their own movements on the stage.  If another actor isn’t where they are supposed to be, it throws my son’s count off and thereby his performance off.

While it sounds like a lot of work and a lot of extra effort, I am not really sure if it is or not.  The way it looks to me, as I watch the performances and listen to all the kids interact after the shows, it seems it is all just part of the teamwork they put in to live their passion for the stage.

I guess you could argue that my son has a knack for making these kinds of things happen and it isn’t really that others are team players on the stage, it is my son that makes all that happen.  I can tell you from discussions with him that it is indeed a team effort, between him and the rest of the cast… but I can also tell you that this isn’t isolated to just this group of actors.  My younger son tried theater in our 6th grade program this year and the exact same thing happened.  He perfected his role, and the actors around him perfected the slight guiding, the ever so subtle cue, and their own roles.

10426253_10205942211892904_1487532276291761701_nLike I said, I never would have thought of a theater production as a team sport.  Perhaps I would have thought of it metaphorically as in they all work together to pull off the show.  But from firsthand experience I can now say that from open to close of that curtain, and all the work leading up to it, the cast and crew of a show work as a team… perfecting their own roles and supporting each other to make everyone successful.  The best teams pull off the greatest performances.  I am quite blessed to have witnessed several of the best and my guys are blessed to be involved with such great teams.

The Eye Believe in Miracles BLOG is written by Kristin Smedley, mom of two sons living with blindness.  If you would like Kristin to speak to your company or organization about moving out of fear, past challenges, Out of Darkness and Into Greatness, send her an email at curingretinalblindness@gmail.com.   If you would like to Join The Mission to help fund cures for retinal diseases please DONATE here.    Together we can do so much.

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