Image and video courtesy of Alexa Bracco
Sports are for all.
The young and old, beginner, intermediate and elite.
A fearless, 10-year-old by the name of Lauren Richardson decided to give field hockey a try. The position she picked – goalkeeper. The reason why she chose that position, she has cerebral palsy and it provides the best option to show how courageous she can be.
Lauren is a fraternal twin and was born at just 27 ½ weeks. She has had a complicated hospital course, but her demeanor hasn’t stopped her from lighting up any room and doing what she can to engage in as many activities as possible. She started physical and occupational therapy very early which has been crucial to ensure her safety and provide her with the opportunity to achieve appropriate skills as well as maximize her independence in her environment. She has come a long way and improved her gait, balance, endurance and body awareness as she continues to grow and participate in her love of sports.
Lauren first met Alexa Bracco four years ago at a horseback riding camp for individuals with disabilities. Their paths crossed again this summer, and this is where Lauren told Alexa that her school would not be participating in sports this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Being a former college field hockey athlete, Alexa told Lauren about her journey which sparked an interest in something new.
“It was then that I started to think that maybe I could somehow get Lauren involved,” commented Alexa. “I wanted her to actually play with her typical peers and experience what it feels like to be a part of a team. Being a part of a sports family is one of the greatest support systems an individual can have. Teammates build each other up and bring out the best in each other.”
Alexa started by teaching Lauren the basics of the game. She then suited her up in used goalkeeping pads that she bought online and got to work. Lauren plays seated but anyone can tell that her awareness and eagerness is there as she uses her stick, and even body at times, to stop the ball. Like any athlete, she wants to learn, excel and give it her all.
“Field hockey is one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever done,” said Lauren. “It makes me stronger! It’s for me!”
Lauren, now a member of Long Island Field Hockey, has proven that practice makes perfect and even within her first two weeks has even been able to sit up on one knee and do sit-ups, which she could never do. Her determination to never give up is truly admirable.
“There is one more thing I will say about Lauren,” added Alexa. “You can coach someone to gain skills, you can condition someone to be faster, you can even do strength training to make someone stronger. But you can’t teach someone competition and I believe Lauren was born with that gift.”