Shea Hammond was the fourth born in his family and his mother thought it was a blessing that he wouldn’t crawl away wherever she placed him. He didn’t crawl away or explore and if he did try to move he would just go in a circle. As he developed, he was slow to crawl and walk and the doctors shrugged it off saying he was just a little slower to develop. Around six years old his mom mentioned to the doctor that his left arm and hand were showing signs of delays at this time the doctor told his family to see a neurologist.
It was then that the neurologist did an MRI and discovered a small dead spot on the right side of Shea’s brain. Shea was officially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.
Cerebral Palsy is one of the most common motor disabilities. Cerebral Palsy is caused by having a stroke in utero or though uncommon, during birth. Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term, but those living with CP can have difficulty with motor movements and balance. According to the CDC, one in every 345 children are diagnosed with CP.
Shea’s father, Ashley is a well known soccer coach so it’s no surprise that from a young age Shea fell in love with the game. However, because of the effects of CP it was hard for Shea to physically keep up with the other children. He would often fall down resulting in having bruises and scrapes on his knees. He was often picked last due to his physical limitations.
Shea recounts that at a young age he didn’t fully understand what CP was and barely could even pronounce it. During my interview with Shea he said, “It just kinda always stung being last picked or always knowing I couldn’t run as fast as the other kids, especially when I was playing soccer.” Though being picked last and constantly feeling like you can’t adequately measure up to your peers could keep someone down, Shea was the opposite. He used that fuel to fire this burning desire to be better than the expectations people had of his abilities.
US Paralympic Soccer Team
At just 13 years old his mother and father separately found an article in the BBC about the Paralympic soccer team qualifying for the RIO Olympic Games. After looking into what exactly Paralympic Soccer was, they all realized Shea could be a part of that team. After recording a video of himself playing soccer, he sent it over to Stuart Sharp the head coach of the US Paralympic Soccer team. He sent it off and carried on with his summer.
In September he was invited to a training camp in California with the US National team. Shea was thrown in with men that were bigger, older and stronger than him. He knew he wanted to wear the USA jersey and put his heart and soul into working hard. Shortly after coming home from his first camp he discovered he has a stress fracture in his back, then months later he hit a rough patch on the pitch and his knee hyperextended causing him to tear everything except his ACL. The latter injury would cause him to miss his next training call-up with the national team. It was a long road full of training hard, not giving up and persevering through obstacles that would finally land him a spot on the US National Paralympic team at 16 years old.
CP Soccer US
In 2017 the Halliwell family; Eli, Erica, Levi and Malka approached Shea and Ashley about starting a soccer team for children with CP. This amazing program provides children with an outlet to not only play soccer, but to build a community of people who are living with CP, a Traumatic Brain Injury or have had a stroke(s). Shea recounts that there is no cure for these three variations, however physical activity such as soccer can help reduce the effects. With CP Soccer children of all ages are able to play, learn and feel like a valued member of a sport. CP Soccer is now in over 10 states and growing! CP Soccer is a great stepping stone in the Paralympic Soccer world as Stuart Sharp the US Paralympic Soccer Head Coach is an advisor and one of CP Soccer’s biggest fans.
CP Soccer US not only offers a training camp, but it offers a week long sleep away camp fro children 10 years of age to high school age. For those above the high school age they are able to be counselors. Shea mentions that this week long experience is his favorite week of the entire year. It’s full of people who are all alike and just happy to have a community they belong to. Everyone belongs. Everyone is seen. Everyone is valued.
Where is Shea Hammond now?
Shea is currently attending Clemson University in South Carolina. He continues to be a big advocate and lends his voice to Clemson University to continue building a fully accessible campus. You can make sure to check out the US Paralympic Soccer team’s schedule to see when and where you can catch Shea and his fellow teammates playing next.
To listen to my interview with Shea on the Sprouting Mind’s podcast click here: interview
Shea Hammond’s social media:
For more Sprouting Minds episodes you can find them here: podcast