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The Thrill of Victory

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Maybe it”s because we”re in the South. Maybe it”s because that”s what we did when we were growing up. Maybe it”s because we want to live vicariously through our children. But no matter the reason, you”ve got to admit, sports are typically a big part of a kid”s life – whether a boy or a girl.

Sports are a great teaching tool for things like teamwork, discipline and learning how to deal with disappointment. They typically keep your kids involved so there”s less time for mischief, and they help to build friendships and respect for others.

But what if your kid couldn”t participate in typical sports? What if your child had a disease and couldn”t use his legs. Or what if your daughter had developed a medical problem and lost her sight? What if, because of physical limitations, your kid didn”t have the opportunity to play sports?

But what if he could?

Thanks to the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP), kids with physical disabilities or visual impairments in grades one through 12 have the opportunity to play in competitive sports leagues that are comparable to standard interscholastic sports offered through schools.

AAASP was founded locally in 1996 and grew out of an adaptive sports program of the DeKalb County public school system. It is a not-for-profit organization that is funded through grants, donations, membership fees and fundraisers.

AAASP serves as the governing athletic association for interscholastic sports such as wheelchair basketball, indoor wheelchair soccer, power wheelchair hockey, track and field and "beep baseball" (A form of baseball for the visually impaired, beep baseball has a few field modifications and also uses special equipment. The balls are large, 16-inch softballs with an implanted electronic beeping device so that players can gauge the location and movement of the ball. Bases are columns of foam rubber, four-feet tall and have buzzers as auditory indicators for the players.).

The sport options are physical, competitive leagues – think Paralympics, not Special Olympics. The players associated with AAASP are orthopedically or visually impaired, but have a cognitive ability in at least the normal range. In fact, the Georgia High School Association, which governs high school sports for athletes who are not disabled, has partnered with AAASP, which governs Georgia”s interscholastic sports for student athletes with physical disabilities. Together, they are able to support an equitable interscholastic athletics structure.

Garrett Couch of Roswell has been involved in AAASP athletics since age 5. Born with spina bifida, the now 18-year-old has been in a wheelchair nearly all his life. He currently plays wheelchair basketball and soccer through an AAASP program sponsored by the local YMCA.

"Sports have always been a part of my life," Couch said, "but I didn”t realize my full potential back then."

Couch has developed such skill in basketball that he was invited to participate in Team Holyfield,