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Coaching Compassion: A Program Built on Diveresity

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Growing up a multi-sport athlete, Sarah Albus was no stranger to competition. From gymnastics to volleyball to downhill skiing – she did it all! But the soccer field is where Sarah found her footing, winning two SEC championships at Vanderbilt University and playing on the US Women’s National B Team . 

This conversation isn’t dedicated to Sarah’s amazing athletic accomplishments on the field. We want to put a spotlight on what’s she’s doing off the field to impact her community. We discuss the organization she founded – Open Door Sports – who provides high-quality sports programs to every child regardless of financial need, location, or physical ability.

Sarah and her husband are the parents of four daughters. Three of her children are what Sarah describes as “neuro-typical” with standard brain function and motor skills as other children in their age and development bracket. One of their daughters, Hannah, has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disorder. She sees, hears, and feels our world the same as other children, but her daily tasks are a little bit different and more intricate than from what you would expect for a neuro-typical day-to-day. 

Because of her disability Hannah was not afforded the same access to after school programs that other students enjoyed, like participating in sports or extracurricular clubs. Sarah set out to change that. Not just for Hannah, but for other children like her. Sarah created Open Door Sports to provide a place where anyone from any background could get together and learn fundamentals of a few different sports, have fun, and make friends. Through this program, kids from varying socioeconomic backgrounds and those who are physically or intellectually disabled could compete and play. 

Open Door Sports is filling gap in a very underserved part of the community, providing those with intellectual or developmental disabilities can learn new skills, gain confidence, and have their needs met and understood. 

It takes a lot to create something from the ground up. From coaching, to administrative tasks, to supporting athletes, Sarah leverages the power of volunteers to make ODS run. Through a program called “Peer Buddies,” Sarah matches a student volunteer with an athlete to enable one-on-one care and instruction from a peer. 

You’ll hear in the episode about the continued success of the program as well as how the peer-to-peer approach is helping to foster empathy and a deeper understanding of those who may look, talk, or walk differently. She’s teaching an important life lesson that the volunteers wouldn’t get anywhere else. 

A product of a mother’s love, Open Door Sports is changing communities by providing an open door for all developmentally challenged athletes and fostering inclusion and understanding through the Peer Buddy program. If you’d like to learn more, donate, or even see how you can join the ODS team, head on over to opendoorsports.org.  

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