Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, these are all names we recognize as tennis champions. I have a story of a different kind of champion but a champion just the same. This is a personal story and one I have been hesitant to share but my hope is that is may inspire someone else to try something they never thought they could do. This is the story of a champion named Josh.
High school tennis season is starting again. The tennis bags sits at the front door awaiting its enthusiastic owner to pick it up and head off to the court. There were doubts that the bag would find its way out the door this year or that the tennis racquets would see the light of day, but with hard work and determination their owner was released from physical therapy only days before the first practice. Another set back but not enough to stop the determined fourteen year old.
Josh is fourteen years old, a high school freshman, five feet tall and ninety pounds, with osteoporosis. Three fractures of the feet and a broken wrist have not kept him off the court yet.
Josh had just started tennis when he fractured his foot for the third time and was feeling discouraged that he was going to have to give up something he loved again because of yet another fracture. Thanks to a great coach and good friend he didn’t have to leave the court. Cast and all he went out and worked on swinging the racquet while the coach fed balls directly to him.
Seventh grade tennis season was going great with Josh was having fun, enjoying being part of a team and the tennis was getting pretty well too. Then a slight mis-step on a back pedalling drill caused a fractured right wrist and badly sprained left wrist. Another season lost, but with the spirit of a true athlete and team player Josh dressed for every match and cheered his team on.
This winter saw Josh working hard three or four days a week at the tennis club getting his game ready for the upcoming high school season. January 15 Joshua walks off the court after a USTA team tennis match and asks me to take him to the doctor. He is in obvious pain from his neck down to his fingers. He is suffering from muscles knots and spasms in his neck and arm. Six weeks of physical therapy has finally released the muscles and normal strength has returned to the arm. He’s free to play again.
I sat in the car and watched him play the first day of tryout and I couldn’t help but think…”there is a champion!” He was moving his feet and hitting the ball clean, getting as much power and depth as anyone else out there. You would never know that his feet cause him chronic pain, his knees and hips hurt sometimes so it is difficult to walk down the stairs,and his wrist hurts just to write some days.
Today the bag sits at the door and although it is a little harder to sling over his shoulder, he picks it up with the same enthusiasm as he did before. The wrist is a little sore and the neck a little stiff but he pushes on. When he hits the tennis court it won’t be the discomfort he thinks about but the joy of being able to participate.
Josh is my champion! He may not win the match, but it is a far bigger opponent he defeats every time he walks onto that court. He defeats the disease called osteoporosis that, for some unknown reason, has decided to live inside the body of a fourteen year old boy.