The Art of Our Playing Field by Tony Gebhard

From the Editor: Tony Gebhard is a born musician, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, producer, travel junky, aviation nerd, and is all about mental health advocacy. He has been involved actively with the Federation since 2017 when he attended his first state convention in Michigan. Tony will be attending school in the Fall and he will major in marketing. He has a deep passion for journalism and capturing those who feel lost or without a voice. He has two published albums and currently sings and plays guitar for a metal band based in MI called "Lost In Hope".

Tony is always open to meeting new folks in the Federation and is working closely to bringing out the best in any individual.

Whether you’re focusing on an intensive game of goal ball, while scraping up your knees from catching quite the fast serve on defense. Making a strong effort to hit that auditory ball during a beep baseball game, or running a 5k until your lungs go crazy!There’s athleticism in our blood waiting to be exploited by our mental power and perseverance. How do we center ourselves in really diverting from the excuses and stepping onto a field or track with confidence? Let’s figure it out together.

First things first. Not everyone is going to strive to be number one on a team, in a sport, or hobby. However, taking those few moments to recognize our progress and give that long awaited pat on our backs is essential for making ends meet in our minds. It doesn’t stop there, though. Sports amongst our blind and visually impaired community exist and there’s endless other options into putting ourselves in our own version of boot camp. To strengthen, exercise, and push for that self esteem boost that we’ve longed for. I’ll take just one second to express: I’ve tripped over roots on hikes, run into teammates on soccer fields, broken toes while trying to reflex to blocking a ball from our goal zone. What I’m trying to get at is failure is a part of growth. Sweat, doubt, muscle pain, excuses, and other forms of resistance are the very essence of what will determine our next rep in a set or finish during a workout goal.

You’re a hero. Failure exposes our version of progress and realism in being a human being. I believe in you. Feeling hurt or having pushback means we have some work to do. We wish somewhere on this green earth that there was an antidote that turns us into Iron Man, but that isn’t the case, my friends. Wouldn’t that be dope, though?

Where to start on this journey… The question asked when getting passed that initial anxiety. Ten push ups in the morning, ten at night. How about a lap around the block where you live? A nice 20 minute stroll on the treadmill. A local visit to a gym nearby to survey the potential equipment. As blind people, an orientation at a gym can be a nightmare at first. Especially if its floor is layered with rows and rows of different machines. Some of my exposures to a few Planet Fitness locations were disastrous. I get it. The last thing we want is to be constantly grabbed and or bombarded with redirections. Yet, to name a couple, Aira works wonders for guided navigation by a well trained agent who can assist with ambient description and even on screen navigation for some of those touch oriented machines on the floor. Yet, Aira requires a paid subscription. So, next in line is Be My Eyes. Both apps are available on IOS and Android.

Options exist, friends. We all struggle day to day with keeping up on our classes, work, hobbies, and hardworking endeavors. A boost, wise word, a motivational speech, or some kick in the pants is all we need to get ourselves in action. No shame, no self hatred, self judgement, none of these things are necessary. Love yourself and what it is you do. You’re worth the very breath that comes through those lungs each day. Significant purpose lies in your hands and heart. If you feel as though you do not know yours right away, welcome to the flock of many others who are binding time and space just to seek their own. We’re in this together.

What is it that makes you feel whole? Do you play a sport? An instrument? Participate in a school junction? We insist that you share with us over Facebook, Twitter, or email. Use the hashtag #MyHeartsPurpose to signify that pride and feeling of belonging. Thank you for reading and let’s go build the federation and rock this universe until it collapses at our feet.

Resources and Athletic Opportunities

1. United States Association Of Blind Athletes

2. NFB Sports and Recreation Division

3. International Blind Sports Federation

4. Check out this article on, Tyler Merren. A totally blind Olympic Medalist from Michigan.

5. An amazing motivational video by, David Goggins. A story of racism, hardship, abuse, and pure endurance.