the foot that flipped my life
by Chris Levine
I was different from every other baby born in Plantation General Hospital on April 11th, 2005. I had a birth defect called Clubfoot that affects about 1 in every 1000 babies. Clubfoot makes the Achilles tendon shorter, causing the foot to be twisted upside down; in my case, my big toe was almost touching the back of my calf. I had to get surgery within a week of being born and was in and out of a cast until I was five.
I started off intramural sports when I was six and faced many challenges such as constant ankle sprains and foot injuries. My foot constantly stood in the way and it was a struggle to find a sport I loved. I discovered wrestling in my freshman year of high school and found that it was one of few sports that allowed me to be in complete control of my results. I couldn’t rely on my teammates to help me win nor blame teammates for losing. I was excited that I finally found a sport that I was truly interested in and was ready to spend the next four years of high school pursuing it.
I was instantly put on the Varsity team, not because of my skill but because there was no one else in the 138-pound weight class. I wrestled 23 matches and lost every single one. I was not very good, but I was passionate about the sport: I loved the hard practices, sweaty mats, constant weight cuts- I loved it all. I did not care if I won every match or lost every match; I just wanted to be better than I was yesterday. That mindset is something I had learned from many years of physical therapy with clubfoot. I had to bend my foot up before I went to bed every night and the goal was to be able to stretch it more than the day before. I saw many of my teammates quit because they did not get the results that they wanted. Many of my coaches and teammates expected me to quit, but I came back the next season, and I won a couple of matches but still had a negative record, but I placed at districts and had a shot in the regional tournament. In my junior season, I improved even more, having a neutral record ending the season with 14 wins and 14 losses, and once again returning to the district leaderboards and earning a spot in the regional tournament. After the season, my coach nominated me to be one of the leaders of the team. I was surprised that I was called for such an important role, not because I lacked leadership but because many others on the team outperformed me. I then realized that I was announced to be one of the senior captains not because of my wrestling skill, but because of the unique mindset I had: the mindset that is defined by progress instead of my immediate success. My coach saw the determined, fearless, and perseverent kid within me. I came into the wrestling room with all of the odds against me and walked out defying all odds and becoming a senior captain.
I once read a quote, “A man who loves walking will walk further than the man who loves the destination.” I learned that because I loved the journey, results follow naturally. I chose to walk the journey of becoming the best version of myself and to prove to my six year old self who was sitting on the sidelines with an ankle injury that I would eventually find a sport to fall in love with. I realized that limitations are only something one can put on themselves and with the right mindset and positive attitude anything can be accomplished.