Hello! Welcome to the first article on our brand new website for Athletes Roll! With this we are hoping to spread the word about adaptive sports and reach a greater audience. We started Athletes Roll this past May and have been spreading this message to people with and without disabilities with the goal of getting more people involved! But how did this come to be? Our close friends and family may have heard this story early in our adventure but I will recap for those who joined along the way.
First allow me to introduce myself. My name is Timothy Jennings. I am a junior in college and hopefully a future medical student but for this story I am simply a fan. The stars of the story are my brother, Anthony, and my mom, Lisa. Anthony has Becker Muscular Dystrophy, a neuromuscular disease that progressively weakens his muscles. A recent college graduate, Anthony transitioned into a power wheelchair when he started college at the University of New Hampshire. At this point he was introduced to a sport specifically for power wheelchair users called power soccer and he started playing for the Northeast Passage Wildcats in New Hampshire.
After a year of exciting power soccer (in 2012), Lisa attended a Wildcats power soccer game with a shirt from Under Armour that read “Athletes Run.” Since she is not an avid runner, she wore the shirt not to workout but to match her new pink sneakers! Once she started watching my brother’s team play that day she realized her mistake: these athletes can’t run, they roll! She felt terrible at her mistake and thought the players and families would think she was being insensitive. Not many people noticed the shirt (and those that did told us they found it funny!) but she had a brilliant idea amidst the fright. She would have her husband take a picture of her wearing the shirt with the team in the background so that she could suggest a new idea to Under Armour: ”Athletes Roll” shirts to support adaptive athletes!
Two months after sending in the proposal we heard back from the manager of the Under Armour Innovation Lab who said they were touched by the story and would see what they could do. And what they did was truly amazing! While they couldn’t take on a new clothing line at the time, they took the time to make a customized Athletes Roll logo (which we still use today!) and made 50 Athletes Roll shirts for all of the athletes, coaches, and family members on Anthony’s team.
In the fall of 2015 it was announced that the Northeast Passage Wildcats were going to the Founders Invitational in Wooster, Ohio. Anthony came up with the idea to sell new Athletes Roll shirts to fundraise for the team’s trip. Thinking that could definitely help dampen the costs of the trip we had each player sell preorders for shirts to friends and family. Expecting to sell maybe 50 shirts in total we were amazed to see how excited people were. We ended up selling a couple hundred shirts which significantly helped out with the costs of the trip for individuals as well as a donation to the Northeast Passage organization to assist with other costs. The fundraiser showed adaptive sports to so many people and we knew at that point that we wanted to continue spreading this message.
In late May, 2016, Athletes Roll was created. Days in advance of the Founders Invitational Tournament in June we hopped on social media, prepared (very makeshift) fliers, and got our cameras ready for the trip out to Ohio. While I don’t think we could ever truly be ready for our first event, the Founders Invitational tournament was extremely exciting. It was one of four national tournaments held by the United States Power Soccer Association, with one for each division of power soccer in the US. It was also the first national tournament for the Northeast Passage Wildcats and there is certainly more excitement for them this coming season. [Check out the results of the four tournaments here.]
Moving past the summer of power soccer we attended several other adaptive sports events. We participated in the annual MDA Muscle Walk in New Hampshire which raises awareness for Muscular Dystrophy. We took in the amazing Paralympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And we joined many other local adaptive sports organizations at an Intro to Paralympic Sports held by Adaptive Sports New England!
And that is essentially how Athletes Roll came to be! There is much more detail you can read about our first year on our Facebook page. We will keep posting here with more in-depth recaps of 2016 as well as previews of 2017! Thanks!