Married to the Chair- Coaching

Aug 01, 2013
Tagged with: Married to the Chair- Coaching

Have I ever mentioned that my husband and I coach track, field, and archery? Well, he coaches field and archery and I coach track and basically act as team “mom” while my husband is the “fun” one. For three or so months out of every year our life gets put on hold… the grass doesn’t get mowed, there are only weeds in the garden, our fridge remains empty, and our friends forget who we are because track season is upon us.

kelraycoThe first few weeks of track season are pure chaos in my life… For those few weeks I actually juggle four jobs. Two are constants in my life and what bring home the bread and butter, but on top of that I teach a class or two at a local university most semesters and then coach track. So while my students are frantic about finals and graduation I just laugh at the lack of actual stress in their life as I am just happy if I can make it to class with a final for them to take. And I love how students assume their teachers have absolutely no life outside of teaching. If I give them a test they expect it to be graded by the next class… but they certainly didn’t hand in every homework when it was due so why should I feel obligated to stay up till all hours of the night after I have worked 4 jobs just so they can know how much they didn’t study. But enough about my students, when that last day of class rolls around I can promise you that I am happier than any kid in my class, hands down, and track season is in full swing. Typically, we take 3 trips per season. During most seasons each trip averages about a 10 hour bus ride one way. The first two trips are usually semi- local (meaning in the same half of the United States) and last about 4 days. The last trip is always in a land far, far away and lasts longer than any trip should ever have to when you are in charge of someone else’s children. The first two trips, while not without their own adventures, are typically fun. We enjoy being with the kids and having fun with the team but are always ready to give them back at the end of the weekend. I think any coach of kids with varying disabilities has their share of stories they could tell, but after 6 years of coaching I feel like I could write a book. From cancelled flights with crying children, to stuffing lots of kids and wheelchairs in very small vehicles to the dreaded code browns, I think we have seen it all. While we enjoy the travel and watching and helping these kids grow into independent young adults, the looks and treatment we get while out and about is a completely different story. I have ceased to be amazed at the lack of professionalism and quality of service when we travel. This year was no different. I can’t tell you how many times we have arrived at a hotel and been told they don’t have any accessible rooms available… Even though we booked the accessible rooms a month in advance and called WEEKLY to make sure they would be available to us. How does that happen? I didn’t make an unreasonable request. I reserved a room that you offer and expect that service when I get there… and then when I am standing there at their hotel counter after 10 long hours in a bus with 15 athletes and coaches behind me half of which are probably in wheelchairs they say, “Won’t a regular room work?” NO! if a regular room would work than I would have ordered a regular room…. And then they just sit there and stare at me as if I am going to change my mind… I just simply don’t get it… I then proceed to explain to them how a wheelchair doesn’t fit in a regular bathroom. I have literally had to take their staff person into the room and show them how a wheelchair doesn’t fit. I have carried many kids into a bathroom or grabbed a chair from the pool area so they could transfer or watched them scoot on their butts across the floor, simply because the hotel industry doesn’t seem to understand what reserving a wheelchair accessible room means.kelkids
Airlines usually do a pretty good job but every now and then we run into the ones like this year when we had a two hour layover and they sent all of our everyday chairs over to our next flight telling us that we could just use the airline chairs? You know the ones that someone else has to push for you? And since we had about 6 of those they would have to provide the staff to push each one of them where ever they wanted to go for the next 2 hours! Needless to say we had to wait another half hour for them to bring all of our chairs back.  But this year our last trip offered us even more adventures. We flew to our destination but still had about an hour drive to get to our hotel for the week. So when we landed we headed over to the car rental to get our cars. We had reserved two mini- vans and a set of portable hand controls so that my husband could drive one of the vans. When we got to the car rental company they informed us that they didn’t have the two mini- vans we requested and asked if something else would do. I said well I have 15 people 5 wheelchairs a walker and all of our luggage that we need to fit into two vehicles so whatever they thought would work. Then they informed us that we would have to take a shuttle to the car lot … I said ok just make sure it’s accessible (because of aforementioned situation) his response: “We don’t have any accessible shuttles but it’s just a few steps and we have a hand rail!” Oh, a Hand Rail! WHAT? kelraycomdI am sorry sir what did you just say? A few steps??? One step is one step too many. I am not carrying all these kids and their luggage onto your shuttle. So they ended up having to take multiple trips in the one minivan that they did have on the lot. When we got to the lot they informed us that they didn’t have hand controls and that you have to order those ahead of time… The frustration at this point is really just laughable… So I answer… we ordered them weeks ago; we even called to make sure you got our order and then just to make triple sure we called YESTERDAY to make sure that you would have them available to us… My husband cannot drive without them… he is the only other available driver… I DON’T UNDERSTAND! Where is the miscommunication between places of business? It’s like they all need a crash course in common sense when it comes to disabilities. So while I sit here and write we are celebrating the 23rd anniversary of the ADA and while we have certainly come a long way… we have a long way to go before the world is truly inclusive!

So, have any of you had similar experiences?

Author: Kelly Bonner