by Lisa Tome
Most days, Samantha McMinn is the manager of the Rising Sun girls basketball program.
Last week, she was the coach.
McMinn, a sophomore at the school and sports manager for the second year, has cerebral palsy as a result of being born early. She's high functioning and most days, makes her way to classes on crutches.
When it comes to playing sports, she uses a wheelchair.
She plays on teams through Kennedy Krieger Institute and plays wheelchair basketball for the Bennett Blazers. That season runs September through April, much longer than the high school season. She also plays in tournaments as far away as Philadelphia and Virginia.
The wheelchair game was a challenge for those used to navigating the court on their legs. Every wheelchair player is charged with a traveling violation if they fail to take two pushes of the wheelchair and a dribble of the basketball to start.
Pre coaching, McMinn was gearing up.
"I'm nervous and excited. We're not much different than people without disabilities. We can do anything they can do," said McMinn. "I'm pretty good especially on defense. Wheelchair basketball is very physical. I want them to leave here seeing that I am the same as them."
She plays a half dozen sports but basketball is her favorite. "Wheelchair basketball changed my life," she said.
McMinn borrowed about a dozen wheelchairs for the training from Kennedy Krieger.
Then she got to coaching. She showed her moves and the team, both varsity and junior varsity members, were impressed. When she showed them how to use the wheel of the wheelchair to aid in retrieving the ball, the team members burst into spontaneous applause. That happened over and over throughout McMinn's coaching debut.
"It's different. I can't touch the ground. It's all in my arms and I can't use my legs," said player Julia Herrmann as she worked to move in the wheelchair.
"It's very frustrating. You can't do what you normally do. It's with your hands It's fun and it's awesome and I aspire to be her," said Madison Foard.
"It's awesome. It's not much different but you are using your arms. It's weird reaching from the side and it's a lot harder than I thought it would be," said player Donae Allen.
Both her parents, Keith and Sandy McMinn of Conowingo, turned out to support her. Keith helped with some of the demonstrations.
His daughter got the best of him as they showed defensive strategies and battling for the ball.
Coach Kathy Stoudt watched McMinn and her players interact. "Sam's been with us two years and the accomplishments she makes, I'm hoping they experience the game through her eyes. They are enjoying it and it's opening their minds. They were very, very excited. This is brand new for them," said Stoudt.
"They will get so much more out of this than if we win a game. This is a great experience for everyone here today," she added.
"She's (McMinn) incredible. She's an amazing person and amazing athlete. I'm glad I got to see what she goes through. People make fun of those with disabilities but she is really strong," said player Sara Smith.
Player Venus Abosede said that she learned a lot. "No matter what comes your way, strive for your goals," said Abosede.