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“I often swim with non-disabled swimmers at ‘regular’ swim meets,” Beth said. “Many people are surprised that I compete in swimming since I use a wheelchair, and it has been fun for me to show how people with disabilities can be competitive in sports just as much as others.”
Coach Peggy had a passion for swimming that I had not seen before. She enthusiastically approached every practice with new ideas, willing to try until something clicked. She did not rely on standard drills and techniques for able-bodied swimmers. The shared excitement of small successes propelled Beth forward.
“It was a new adventure for me,” Peggy explained. “I was in the water with anatomy books on the deck and I would ask her to move certain parts of her body, and then I’d try to trace where the nerve ending connected to the muscle. The light bulb went off then because I understood that she didn’t have the necessary nerves firing to do a particular movement. So we’d try a different movement to attempt the same goal. It took a lot of trial and error, but she was very willing.” So was her new coach.
Peggy’s focus gradually changed, “from what she (Beth) didn't have to what she did have access to.”
Beth registered for her second USA Swimming Disability Championships, to be held in early June in Minneapolis. Her times at recent meets qualified her to attend the meet as an S3, as she had predicted at the last one in Seattle.
At the YMCA about twice a week through the spring, I walked the nearby track instead of staying poolside to read. I didn't need to watch for her head dipping too long underwater anymore. She had learned how to adjust and continue with muscle spasms. She stayed in the pool 30-40 minutes with breaks when she was on her own. Practices with coaches always ran longer.
We drove to Toledo at least once a week. Beth combined a practice with a new favorite: volunteering at GTAC’s WaterWorks to teach safety skills and basic swimming to young children with a disability. One Saturday, she spoke to the kids about her spinal cord injury before getting in the water with them. The first thing Beth taught them was how to roll on their backs to breathe. Just like she had been taught at her first water therapy session after her injury.
Beth loved WaterWorks Saturdays, the highlight of her spring.
A mom with a story
to share about injuries that never heal and fortunate accidents. About guilt, disability, perspectives, and unexpected adventure.