Berne Union senior adapts to life, softball with disability
Berne Union senior Alanna Sanborn is used to batting with just her left hand. Sanborn suffered a stroke either before or at birth, leaving the right side of her body weaker. After training and strengthening, Sanborn is now a member of the school's varsity softball team. / Abigail S. Fisher/Eagle-Gazette
The Berne Union senior outfielder camps under fly balls, catches them with her left hand, and in one fluid motion tucks her glove under her right arm and comes up throwing with her left. It's a technique that Sanborn has mastered not because she's a show-off, but because she's had to.
Eighteen years ago, Sanborn suffered an undiagnosed stroke either before or at birth. She's been overcoming obstacles ever since.
Instead of crawling as an infant, Sanborn half-scooted, half-spun as she made her way across the floors in her family's home. It wasn't until Alanna underwent an MRI at 9 months old that the stroke and its consequences were revealed.
"The technician said the damage was so great that she was shocked that Alanna could do everything that she was able to do," said Robin Sanborn, Alanna's mother.
Dogged determinationAlanna, 18, began working with numerous therapists shortly after the official diagnosis to help her build strength and regain some function on the right side of her body.
When she reached Berne Union Middle School, she partnered with Joan Schulze, an adaptive physical education teacher with the Fairfield County Educational Service System. Schulze, who has taught for 23 years, with the past 11 focused on adaptive physical education, learned of Alanna's ultimate athletic goal just a few short sessions into their weekly classes.
"She said she wanted to play softball," Schulze said. "I asked if she wanted to play rec league or school league, and she said her goal was to play varsity softball. We discussed the work and training and how much of an undertaking it would be, and she was willing to do the work."
Throughout the next two years, Alanna and Schulze worked on increasing Alanna's leg and core strength. The pair then focused on softball-specific skills, including hitting and throwing. Hitting, which has become Alanna's favorite part of the game, was one area in which she had to work the hardest, Schulze said.
"Hitting was very difficult for her at first," she recalled. "All of her strength would have to come from one arm. With time and working out and just her perseverance, she was able to figure out a technique where she could apply both arms and generate more power.
"She was just dogged." more read....