Why Sports Matter to Me

Amara Ross, Adapted Soccer 

Editor’s note: Some sports and recreational organizations offer adapted sports options for children and adults to accommodate cognitive or physical needs. Sometimes it involves modification of rules; sometimes it includes adaptation of equipment. For example, soccer players in wheelchairs can choose to use their hands OR feet to propel the ball, but not both. For cognitive adapted soccer, the game clock is stopped every five minutes by buzzer to allow for substitutions. We talked to one youth in Saint Cloud about her experience.

I was 15 when I started playing soccer. I had friends that played adapted sports and it seemed fun, even though I didn’t know much about it at the time. 

My main position in soccer is defense. I get really competitive defending the goal. When the ball comes to my side of the field, I have to kick it out of our zone and get it to the person who plays center, or one of the wings on the side. 

Kicking the ball is fun. When the ball comes my way, I get into my lunge position. When the ball comes towards my foot, I kick it and it ricochets off, going up in the air and all the way to the other side of the court.

I like to help my teammates out at practice. I reposition them, or tell them you can do this but you can’t do that. Sometimes they call me mom.

Soccer has helped me get out of my comfort zone, try new things, and make new friends that have helped me learn to be myself. Normally at home, I’m serious and uptight. When I’m playing soccer, I’m comfortable being myself around my friends. 

I’ve never been good with expressing my emotions; sometimes I can be withdrawn. Since joining adapted soccer, I’ve learned how to express myself and how to find a different way of doing things. 

Dakotah Lindwurm, Olympic Marathon

During my freshman year of high school, I was pretty horrible at running. That’s why I fell in love with it so quickly. It forced me to practice quite a bit. When I’m not good at something, it lights a fire under me. Towards the end of my junior year, I was looking at colleges. I couldn’t

imagine a life without being on a running team. I found Northern State in South Dakota, reached out to the college coach, and said, “Here are my times. I know that’s not really what you’d like to see from an athlete, but I’ll work really hard.” I started as a college walk-on.

When I neared the end of my college career, my coach thought I could be a successful marathoner and even qualify for the Olympic trials. I was all in from that moment.

I’ve found success at each level by running farther and competing in longer races. The biggest challenge has been convincing others that I would be successful. To make the Olympics, I had to convince my current coach, Chris Lundstrom, that although I’m not your typical athlete, I’ll get there.

When I was younger, my mom would say, “Dakotah, I don’t know what you’re gonna do in this world, but it’s gonna be something really, really great.” She planted a seed in my mind. If I kept trying, I’d do something great.

Alexandera Houchin, Mountain Biking

My introduction to cycling came through urban bike commuting. It was just a form of transportation to get to and from work. That turned into long-distance road bike touring around the country.

I got curious about what riding on dirt was like and bought a mountain bike off Craigslist. In 2018, I did my first long-distance mountain bike–specific race, called the Colorado Trail Race. I fell in love with riding mountain bikes. It evolved into a spiritual space for me. I’ve used bike travel as a way to deepen understanding of my own identity — who I am and what it means, especially in the context of being a Native woman.

I didn’t go into it with the intention of creating ceremony, but I slowly started dressing up with earrings and other jewelry, bringing my medicine pouch, and including other parts of my indigenous self in this non-native space.

This year, I’m focusing on trauma within my identity and trying to mourn so that I can heal. I have long days by myself where I can ugly cry, I can laugh, and I can have no reaction to the emotions that I’m feeling at all. The hope is that I come out the other side as a lighter and better version of myself.

It’s hard to have to look at yourself. These races are so honest — you cannot hide, you cannot lie to yourself, you cannot escape. You have to face who you are and what you’ve put into it.

Barb Franklin, Belly Dancing

In 1969, I lived in Baltimore and became a member of the Maryland Company of Middle Eastern Dancers. After I moved to Minnesota, I discovered Cassandra Shore’s teaching. I am a member of the Khazanah Dance Ensemble she founded in 2013 for dancers over 40.

Belly dancing is great exercise. It helps me overcome problems with my joints. I may have fatigue — I am 80 years old — but I keep dancing. I listen, and then express the rhythm and feel of the music. I aspire to control each part of my body — to move just one part of the body clearly without moving the rest of me. It helps that I love dressing up and being in bright, shiny things. We often dance at festivals and in long-term care facilities.

I am with a great bunch of women who have become friends.


Jennifer Gisslen Lee, Swimming

I returned to a gym recently after several years away. My mind and body were craving a place to swim. My shoulders constantly felt creaky and achy and tight, and swimming was the only thing I could think of that might relieve some of that.

Being in the water takes me back to my youth. The family near us put in an above-ground pool. Their youngest girl was my age, so I got additional access. We would hold our breath and dive to the bottom and do as many laps as we could, and our skin would turn a dark- golden color by mid-summer. We smelled of chlorine. The colors of our swimsuits faded fast from repeated use.

Learning how to swim, and swimming competitively for a handful of years, is one of the life skills that I’m most grateful for. I can come back to it after years and years away, and my body remembers the motions. My mind relaxes and drifts back to those happy years of my childhood. It feels like yesterday when I’m in the pool, even though at least 30 years have passed.

Next month’s theme is focused on Asian American voices.

The Tapestry question: “How do you experience racism?”

Send to editor@womenspress.com by July 10.