Thursday, May 21, 2009

PSU Cycling Club

This week Vanguard sports writer Allison Whited wrote a story about the Portland State Cycling Club. This article is a continuation of that story which can be found here.

Sometimes being an athlete is about more than being part involved in a sport. Sometimes it's about what you add to a community.

I'm not talking about the time NFL players commit to playing with kids for the United Way or the playgrounds that the NBA players pride themselves on building. I'm not even talking about the various charities started by athletes for a cause near and dear to their hearts.

I am talking about what an athlete can contribute to a community just by sharing his or her experiences.

Recently, I met Jeremy Robbins, a member of the PSU cycling team. Robbins is the only hand cyclist both on the team and in the conference that the team participates in.

Robbins was an elite cyclist. After sustaining a neck injury in a bike crash, he is now a quadriplegic. Robbins is forthcoming with the story behind his disability and more than happy to recount some of the humorous situations that only he would face as a hand cyclist.

He does this with such charm, such unabashed honesty it almost makes you uncomfortable. Not because what he is saying makes you feel bad for him, but because you know that you have had very few, if any, conversations as real as the one you're having with him with anyone else you have ever known.

Robbins prides himself on being an ambassador for his sport and his disability. He makes it a point to talk to people at races about what he is doing. He and his teammates have had to clear some pretty high hurdles for him to be able to compete in the conference, but now hand cyclists have the opportunity to compete. And Robbins is certainly looking forward to the competition.

Robbins's reach extends beyond the cycling world. He is already making attempts to reach out to returning veterans and he makes it a point to participate in other sports, like murderball.

If we were all as free and open about our experiences as Robbins is, our communities, both personal and global, would certainly be better places.

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