BlazeSports Highlights Accomplishing Intern

As Sonja Ast wraps up her internship at BlazeSports, she reflects on her accomplishments and the lives she has impacted, as well as, those who have impacted her.

Sonja, along with three other interns have been working with Blaze athletes for the past two months in various sport and educational programs. The opportunity that BlazeSports has provided her will give her the knowledge and experience she will need to continue in sport recreation.  She’s a senior at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia; currently studying Therapeutic Recreation. Sonja would like to give our Blaze family a reflection of her experience at BlazeSports America.

Being an intern at BLazeSports America has been the best experience of my life. I’m so excited that I got the opportunity to do this because I got to explore the world of adapted sports which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved helping out with summer basketball practice for the Atlanta Junior Wheelchair Hawks. I also really liked being exposed to all the programs and assistive technology that they offer. BlazeSports has also given me a chance get some coaching experience which I hope to aspire to be one day. I highly recommend for other interns to come here, because it’ll truly be the best experience you’ll get.

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Collin Takes on NJDC

BlazeSports America recently competed at the National Junior Disability Competition in Iowa. There were three sporting events: archery, swimming, and track and field. Eight of our athletes qualified for nationals. BlazeBlog would like to take the chance to highlight on one of our youngest athletes, Collin Lancaster, who competed in all three events! Here is his personal story and experience in Iowa.

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The first event that I participated in was archery. I enjoy competing in archery because it is different and it allows me to focus on my ability to concentrate. This year I moved up in levels and I got a new bow! I was so excited to use it at nationals. I received a total of 435 points from two distances. I shot from 20 meters and 10 meters. I do not get the chance to practice archery as much as I would like to, but I was happy with my results since it was the best I had done yet with a new bow.

Next, I competed in five swimming events: 50 Breast stroke, 50 Free, 50 Back stroke, 100 Free, and 25 Breast stroke. My favorite event to swim in is the 50 Free. It is my best event. I enjoy swimming because it really shows how strong my upper body is without my lower body. I have always enjoyed swimming with my brothers and cousins, but being able to compete allows me to swim on a different level. I still enjoy swimming for fun with my brothers, especially in the summer.

The last sporting event that I competed in was track and field. It was two very long days for me but it was my favorite event. Moving up an age group was very challenging for me, but it made me realize how much more I have to push myself. On the first day I set two personal records in the 800 and 100. The next day I raced in the 200 and 400. I set another personal record in the 400. My favorite part about track and field was competing with older and new kids.

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My favorite thing about an individual sport is pushing myself to be the best that I can be. I can set my own pace. I like being apart of a team sport too because I like coming together with other kids with disabilities and competing against other teams, together. I am really glad I was able compete at the NJDC in Iowa. I was able to spend a lot of time with my parents, brothers, and grandparents. My favorite part was being with my family on the off time. We went to the field of dreams, which is somewhere I have always wanted to go! I can’t wait for next summer to see what I have accomplished.

 

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A Recap On The UNOSDP

Maggie Frederick has returned home from an amazing experience at the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp in Bradenton, Florida. She was so anxious and excited to share with BlazeSports, as well as, the Blaze community her thoughts on the program. Below is a photo of the 32 individuals who participated in the leadership camp, and Maggie’s final reflection. 

UN Youth

I had only been interning at BlazeSports for a few weeks when BlazeSports staff suggested I apply for the UNOSDP Youth Leadership Camp in Florida. I didn’t really know much about it except I would be learning about sport for development. I will be honest though, I had no idea what that even meant. I found out that I was accepted into the camp. I was so excited because I was going to Florida for 2 weeks and I was going to get to meet people from all over the world. Still, I had no idea what I was going to be doing there.

When I arrived to the camp, I met 2 people from Spain and one from Mexico. We talked on the bus on the way to the camp and I started to think I was the wrong person for this. The people I was with seemed more knowledgeable than me and I was feeling out of place and very nervous. Once we arrived to the IMG academy, I was even more nervous because the first building that I needed to get into was not accessible. I started to wonder what other obstacles I would face over the 2 weeks. From there I finally made it to my room and met one of my 3 roommates. My mind started to ease because my place where I was staying was accessible.

The next morning we had our first session. There were 32 participants representing 20 countries. We discussed what we would be doing and played some ice breaker games to get to know everyone. I knew right then that I had nothing to be worried about. Everyone was so kind that I wasn’t really worried about what I knew or didn’t know. At that moment I knew I was going to come home with so much information and knowledge. All my nerves went away and I was excited to learn new material.

We started the camp with a session from IPC (International Paralympic Committee). I enjoyed this session because I knew a lot of the information and was able to contribute a lot. All of the sessions started with a classroom session and then we had a hands-on session and participated in activities they do in their program. When IPC did the hands-on session, it was very similar to our BlazeDays. We did blind soccer, boccia, sit volleyball, and basketball. I demonstrated to the group how to dribble, push, and pick up the ball using the wheel. When we broke up into groups I stayed at the basketball station to help.

One of my favorite sessions was learning about Judo. The instructor seemed so passionate about what he was teaching that it made me more interested in it. Judo is based on a moral code and in order to move up to the different belts, not only do you have to learn the skills, but learn the history behind Judo as well. It is not about fighting, it is about respect and you are only to use the technique learned in class during Judo.

During the camp we talked a lot about inclusion. I have never participated in sports with only able bodied people. During camp I was the only one with a physical disability so I had to do things a little differently than the group. For the most part I was able to participate in most activities. One challenge I came across was when we were learning rugby. We were playing on grass so it was difficult for me. I did the drills and warm up but since the field was not accessible for me and no one else was in a chair, I could not safely play against the others. Despite all of this, I was strongly encouraged to play which was a great feeling.

Before the camp I knew nothing about sport for development. But by the end of camp, I knew this was something I wanted to learn more about and become more involved in. I think everyone learned a lot from each other and became eager to continue to learn more. Leaving camp was so hard by the end because we spent every moment with each other for 2 weeks.

I am so happy and honored that BlazeSports thought I was a good candidate, and that I was selected for UNOSDP. I learned so much about myself and from all of the organizations, as well as, the other participants. I am so thankful for this experience and can not wait to be able to put into use what I learned at the camp.

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$25K Raised and Matched! Thank You

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BlazeSports Swimmer Competes For Gold

Maya DAAA

Today, the BlazeBlog would like to highlight BlazeSports swimmer Maya Kahn. She has recently competed in two big events. Maya would like to share her experiences, while she continues to win gold!

On June 18-20 I competed in the Jimi Flowers Classic meet in Colorado Springs, CO.  The meet is named after a Paralympic coach who died in a climbing accident.  I was excited to meet the top Paralympic swimmers!  I’ve swam in the same meets with Paralympians a number of times now, but swimming with Jessica Long is always especially exciting.

The Jimi Flowers meet is held every year at the Olympic Training Center (OTC).  It was my first time seeing the OTC, and I’ve always wanted to be a resident athlete there one day.  My friend Lindsay, a former Blazer, is in residence there, meaning she is in training for a spot on the Paralympic swim team.  Lindsay was so kind to give me a personal tour of the OTC, showing me many of the training facilities for a number of different sports, and even showing me her dorm room.  After seeing the OTC, I am even more committed to my training so that someday I may be a resident athlete at the OTC also.

Training at the OTC is tough, and even more so by the fact it is located at high altitude.  Coming to Colorado Springs just the day before competition I didn’t have opportunity to acclimate, and it showed in my times.  Swimming at the high altitude felt like every stroke was a chore.  But I understand now why athletes train at high altitudes to make their bodies stronger.

Luckily my next meet was at sea level.  Soon after Jimi Flowers I traveled to San Diego for the annual Little People of America convention and the Dwarf Athletic Association of America National Games.  It was really fun swimming with my little people friends, some of which are in Paralympic training also.  Even Danielle Kisser, a World Champion from Canada, was there.  I was proud to get a gold in every event I entered (50 back, 50 free and 50 breast).  I also had fun doing two relays, which included swimming with a wet T-shirt and then having to flip it over the next person’s head from yourself as quickly as you can.  Medals were not awarded for the relays, but they were fun to do anyways!

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Final Thoughts on UN Youth Leadership Camp 2014

BlazeCamp is over, and the UN Youth Leadership Camp is wrapping up. Maggie Frederick would like to give you her final thoughts and reflection on her experience. She has spent an incredible two weeks in Bradenton, FL with Dimitry, learning and developing new leadership skills that will help her long term.

This week has been tiresome and rewarding. I can not believe all the information that I am learning. So far we have learned about Judo, Rugby, and Table Tennis.

I really enjoyed Judo because Nico, the speaker, was very passionate about it and it made me excited for it. He focused a lot on the history and he talked about Judo is based on a moral code. The moral code is friendship, bravery, sincerity, honor, modesty, respect, self control, politeness, and perseverance. This really hit home to me because this is what sports did for me growing up. I learned all of these codes through sports. However, I do not think that it was ever discussed, it just happened naturally as I got older. Judo is built on this code and it is very important to the athletes. There are many different colored belts that you can get in Judo, black being the highest. You have to have the skills as well as the knowledge to move up in Judo. I never new anything about Judo before this camp and I now have a new respect for the sport and the participants.

Rugby was really interesting to me because I have only played Quad Rugby and knew nothing about able bodied Rugby. I also really enjoyed it because despite my disability, the coaches still really encouraged me to participate. We were on a grass field so it was really hard. I did the drills at the beginning but decided that it was safer I sit out for safety reasons. I got to cheer on my team and we won the mini tournament undefeated. It was a really great experience. I have never really participated in team sports with able bodied people and it was really nice to not only to be included but to feel very welcomed in doing so.

Table Tennis was also really fun because the instructors also taught the group about disabled athletes. It was nice to feel included. I struggled at the beginning because I was not very good, but after a little bit of practice I got a hang of things. What I also enjoyed is that the instructors taught us how to be resourceful. The organization is known for traveling to various countries with very little and teaches them how to play table tennis with maybe one racket and no real table for the game. It was very eye opening.

All of these experiences so far as really opened my eyes and has really encouraged me to start setting some new goals to help sport for development become bigger and bigger. I can not wait to see what myself and the other participants at this camp can do in our futures!

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Dimitry’s Thoughts on the UN Youth Leadership Camp

Meanwhile at the UN Youth Leadership Camp in Bradenton, FL, Maggie and Dimitry have been learning how to use sport as a tool for development and peace. Maggie spoke earlier about her experience in the BlazeBlog regarding the camp. Like Maggie, Dimitry has reflected and benefitted from this experience.

I am currently at the IMG Academy, a special camp for young leaders. I am representing Haiti as an Ambassador. I am having fun, as well as, learning a lot of new things. I think that everyone should know about the power of Sport! I have come to the realization that the best language to use to communicate to the kids all over the world is Sport. Sport is the best tool that we suppose to use to fight against hunger, discrimination, gender inequality, insecurity and poverty. We need to use sport to bring people together and show them that they all have their place in our society. One thing I have learned is that, when you have knowledge and you keep it for yourself; you do not know anything at all. Knowledge is to be shared. When I go back to Haiti, I will make sure that I can meet with the leaders to share my experience. It is important that we get involved in the Sport for development program. I will make myself more available to work with disable people. I will make sure that they know that they belong in sport activities.  

I want to share this sentence with you: If you want to see a change in the world, you have to change first.

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