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Making the Move from Sidelines to Game Time: Minnesota's Danny Lilya

By Lindsey Atkinson, CIC on November 08, 2016 Students with Disabilities

Imaginative, innovative, inspiring – all intangible skills possessed by many successful coaches around the country.  Coach Dave Louzek of the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels is demonstrating these impalpable traits, not through his stellar record which includes 11 section titles in the last 17 seasons and 10 straight appearances at state, but through his undaunting acceptance of Danny Lilya as a member of the 2016 Rebels football team. 

IMAGINATIVE – Most individuals would look at Danny, a student sitting in a wheelchair with an obvious physical impairment, wanting to play high school football and think – there is no way.  They would mentally check off the list of reasons why he cannot play.  He can’t run, can’t block, can’t walk, can’t even have his chair on the field during play as it would be a safety hazard for the other competitors.  Possessing imagination allows a coach to get creative with the “cans”.  What can this student do?  Physically, he has good hands, arm and core strength.  Danny Lilya is the placeholder for the Rebels football team.  A position in which he has all the skills necessary to be successful.

INNOVATIVE – Now strategically, how is this going to work?  Danny needs to be able to get on and off the field, on and off the bus, and in and out of the locker rooms.  An innovative coach like Coach Louzek just finds a way.  Teammates help when it’s necessary, like transporting Danny on and off the field for field goals and extra points, while the rest of the time the Rebels follow their coach’s lead and just find a way.

INSPIRING – Actions of inclusion impact so many more individuals than just the student with the physical impairment.  Coach Louzek is inspiring generations of student-athletes as his philosophy of inclusion is setting an example for all former, current and future Rebels.  Inspiration is many times an unintended consequence of a coach simply using his/her imagination and skills in innovation.  This coach provided an opportunity for a student who might not have been considered an athlete, and created an environment that became conducive for him to become an athlete.

Coach Louzek is one of many coaches around the country creating opportunities for individuals like Danny Lilya to make the move from the sidelines to game time.   

To read more about Danny Lilya and Coach Dave Louzek click here: http://usatodayhss.com/2016/video-wheelchair-wont-stop-minnesota-football-player.