Inclusion is sports is something that, as Chloe’s biggest fan, has been so interesting for us to navigate.
Much to the dismay of everyone other than other parents and those involved in Special Olympics, Chloe wanted - more than anything just to be a part of a team or sport — she just wanted to be included up to her ability level. In most cases, this made so much sense but was no kidding ridiculously difficult to explain to the neurotypical world. No, really...I just THOUGHT course access was hard.
Apparently, people have this idea that sports are only played by people that are gifted athletes. There is no beginner level or learning going on — it all seems to be about the competition and not about the love of the game. Well, I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t sit well with me. These are, for all intents and purposes, KIDS we are talking about. And while I’m sure that some of them will be athletic scholarship recipients, I’m sure that just as many won’t be. We struggled with physical education for the most part. Every school she attended always found that she belonged in something called “adaptive physical education”. This was the case up until senior year when finally, Chloe was given the chance to enroll in physical education electives - and boy did she! She even won a peer-nominated award for her dedication to health and wellness. Although we wished she would’ve been included much earlier in life, we were very proud of her.
Over the years Chloe participated in her fair share of sports: track and field, equestrian, gymnastics and cheer but she truly fell in love with figure skating and continues to skate here in Nashville. The summer before freshman year was filled with lessons from her coach Robert Mauti and she occasionally took an adult creative movement class - just for fun. In July, Chloe FINALLY joined her first figure skating club and became a proud member of Nashville FSC. She is also a member of the United States Figure Skating Association. We knew that the school year would be tough to balance with figure skating training so we’ve opted for shorter more frequent lessons and Chloe continued in the adult class into fall semester. In December, she skated in the Christmas show with her adult class and in January she represented Tennessee at the Special Olympic Winter Games. She was slightly injured during warm-ups but was able to skate her program for all to see. Her drive and dedication really do amaze me!
I think the most amazing part - the part that makes me feel like I’m living in a Disney movie - is the vitality she brings to the sport. Fellow skaters just embrace her and are so proud - I’m not a skater so I don’t understand the dynamic but I get the feeling many know how hard it is and commend her for trying. And that’s where it starts - as she grows and improves it becomes even more apparent that she cares, she tries and she LOVES - truly loves the sport. Often Chloe is the only special skater, fully included in the skate world and she is comfortable that way - comfortable in her own skin, with her differences and each time she steps out to compete - I see the changes in her style: arms a little straighter, stroke closer together and elements are executed with more precision. I know she’ll master her first jump soon and I can’t wait to have a front row seat (don’t worry I’ll video) .. because as coach says, “video or it didn’t happen.”
Chloe may indeed be Nashville FSC’s first differently-abled member, but I certainly hope she isn’t the last. Her legacy is strong and Nashville is just EMBRACING her!