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Chance Gillespie, son of Darren and Paula Gillespie of Lebanon, was selected for the first annual Tom Leach All-Resilient Team recently.
Gillespie is a junior at Marion County High School and is both a football and track athlete. The All-Resilient Team is made up of 19 male and female Kentucky high school athletes who have had to overcome great obstacles to play their sport. Adversities overcame by members of this team include injuries, disabilities, or health or family difficulties.
Gillespie, who was born deaf, has had to learn to communicate with his teammates and coaches in a different way than most athletes on any team. During football season, Gillespie’s father Darren, the pastor at Lebanon United Methodist Church, signs to Chance as the coaches are communicating with the team. However, the plays are given to Gillespie by what Head Football Coach Jeff Robbins describes as a “very primitive signing skill.”
During track meets, coaches use the same method to direct Gillespie toward the events that he participates in - the discus and shot put.
Robbins also noted that early on communicating with Gillespie was challenging. “The communication is not near the problem it used to be,” he said. “He always seems to understand. His teammates treat him like a brother. A little protective at first, but now they have realized that he can handle himself. Chance is very deserving of this award.”
On April 28, Chance Gillespie, along with his family, attended the award ceremony to honor the athletes who were selected to the All-Resilient Team at the Kentucky High School Athletic Directors Conference. According the website of Tom Leach, the voice of the Kentucky Wildcats, “resiliency is one of the foundation concepts of athletic competition at any level.” And the notion of recovery from a setback such as adversity is something we all must encounter at some point in our lives.
Gillespie’s father hopes that Chance’s story will be an inspiration to any other athlete who faces disabilities in sports.
Chance, communicating via text message, said this award means a great deal to him.
“I didn’t think I would get such a big award like this, but it’s a dream come true,” Gillespie wrote. “Coach Robbins has helped me a lot because he encourages me to do new things. I have taught my team some sign language so I can talk with them and they can tell me what to do.”
For more information about this team and all of the athletes selected, visit http://www.tomleachky.com/All_Resilient_Team.html.