Mansfield Sports

June 2, 2014

Trainer’s disability not an issue on Summit football fields

Kelvin Nappier, who has cerebral palsy, says he enjoys looking after the athletes on the Jaguars football and basketball teams and looks forward to receiving his letter jacket.

A desire to be close to his schoolmates and help take care of his teammates was reason enough for Summit freshman Kelvin Nappier to inquire about being a trainer for the football and basketball teams.

Taking on that demanding commitment of practices and games is daunting enough, knowing you’ll never have the opportunity to play in front of the fans.

But Nappier gladly performs his duties while also dealing with cerebral palsy, or CP.

A chronic condition, CP is caused by a disruption in the brain’s ability to control body movement, coordination and posture.

For Nappier, he is able to fully use his right hand and has an impaired gait.

But that doesn’t stop Nappier from carrying a medical backpack and his six-pack of water bottles. He’s also responsible for cleaning training tables and during games, he’s the designated water bottle refiller.

And he never complains, said Summit head football coach Travis Pride.

“Kelvin has been with us for a year and attends every practice and every game,” Pride said. “He is treated like everyone else. He has a great attitude as well, and can be feisty at times, but never complains. During practice or in the hall, the older players are slapping him a high-five with a ‘Wuz up,’” he said.

That same treatment includes having made a commitment at the start of the summer practices.

“He took the pledge before the season to take care of his grades and to be there and be able to execute all the expectations for all the practices and games,” said Nappier’s sister, Kristy Ledesma.

Asked why he enjoys taking on such a responsibility, Nappier said he likes looking after the athletes. “It’s not hard work, and I plan to do it again next year,” he said.

Nappier said he’s learned how to tape ankles and the importance of hydration for athletes in both football and basketball.

He also enjoys being out in front of the crowds along with the team.

Nappier’s mother, Karen, said Kelvin initially showed an interest in the trainer opportunity because he didn’t like to dress out for PE class.

“He saw the other kids it (being a trainer) and saw the athletes being serviced by trainers,” Karen said. “When he had an opportunity at Summit, he went through the requirements to start. He started doing as much as he can. Whatever he can do, he does it. He just likes helping people.”

Certainly, the camaraderie is a big plus for Nappier and the outlet is good for him, said his mother. “He knows there are differences, but he doesn’t let that hold him back with the group he’s with,” she said. “He has shortcomings, but he does all he can.”

That sentiment was echoed by Summit’s head trainer, Gary Vanderheiden.

“He wasn’t going to say ‘no’ when asked to try taping,” Vanderheiden said. “Everyone is patient.”

Vanderheiden also expects to see Nappier on his squad for all four years in high school.

One thing that Nappier will have which he didn’t before, heading into his sophomore year: a letter jacket.

“He’s very excited to letter,” said sister Kristy. “He’ll get his jacket and pick out patches soon.”

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