(August 9, 2019) — This summer, USABA hosted its first ever Emerging Stars ID Camp. Five coaches and 20 athletes from 15 different states were invited to participate in a four-day long camp at the United States Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The goal of the camp was to provide participants with training sessions in various Paralympic sports, including goalball, track & field, swimming, judo and triathlon.
The participants arrived on July 21, eager to meet each other, tell their stories, talk about what they looked forward to in the upcoming days, and share their excitement at spending four nights in the dorms at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center.
Athletes and coaches met early each morning, preparing for the 4-5 hours of physical activity that lay ahead of them. There was never a dull moment. Seventeen-year-old Lukas Horton described the experience as, “Just waking up and going. There was always something to do, You just had to put out your best work for the day.”
Each day was focused on a different sport, with strength and conditioning training throughout.
Athletes were able to learn skills and techniques from various Paralympic athletes, including Sophia Herzog and Evan Austin from the U.S Paralympic Swimming team, Ricky Ties & Ben Goodrich of Paralympic Judo, and Asya Miller and Jake Czechowski, player and coach, respectively, of the U.S Women’s Goalball Team. Alongside the training, other Paralympic athletes shared their experiences on living at the training center and gave advice regarding nutrition, strength, goal setting, and mentorship.
This camp however wasn’t only about developing better techniques. The camp also served as a way for young athletes to discover which sport was their passion.
“For me it wasn’t just about going to see the place but also about finding out what sport I want to put my time and effort into, said Bailey Martin, 17, of Hubbard, Iowa. “Training for the Paralympics is a huge undertaking and I wanted to make sure my heart was in the right place. For me the most memorable moment was getting out of the pool and thinking this is what I want to dedicate my time and money to and this is where I want to be more than anything.”
Coaches were also given the chance to grow in their profession as well. Each coach picked up new techniques, such as different dynamic stretches, to better support their athletes. Alongside this, conversations would sprout among coaches from different fields and levels. Desiree Oestricker, a track and swimming coach. described the ability to talk with a couple of the other Paralympic coaches. “To be able to open up and share how I got where I am today and hear their stories was humbling because we aren’t that different” she said.
Being able to provide resources and exposure to multiple sports not only helps each participant further develop their skills as an athlete, there is also the important component of building confidence in themselves and their ability. As judo athletes Ricky Ties said when speaking to the athletes & coaches, “We all understand that there is a lot of uncomfortable situations when you have a vision disability. But in order to get yourself out in the world rolling, you need to constantly be putting yourself into uncomfortable situations.”
The camp came to a close on July 25 with the experience leaving a mark on each of the athletes’ lives and exposing them to sports they had not previously been exposed to. It also forged new friendships, rooted in the common hurdles and triumphs all visually impaired athletes are accustomed to.
USABA plans to hold other Emerging Stars ID Camps in the near future so be on the lookout for dates and criteria.