Using fitness to deal with adversity: armed with courage

Think about the last time you saw a one-handed interception. Or a one-armed tackle to bring down a ball carrier.
Every time outside linebacker Eric S. made any play as an Ohio high school athlete competing several years ago, that’s the way he did it. One-armed. Eric had no other option because he lost his left arm as a result of a farm accident when he was 4.

Because the incident occurred when he was so young, Eric couldn’t recall a day when he had the use of two arms.

One of the most inspirational athletes I’ve reported on, Eric played varsity football and also qualified for the state wrestling tournament.

He grew up learning to adapt and enjoying good times with his family and friends. Part of the fun involved playing sports, something that he was able to continue at the varsity level in wrestling and football despite seemingly long odds.

A 5-foot-8, 155-pounder, Eric amazed just about everyone but himself at mid-sized Chippewa High School. He actually led his team in interceptions and was among the tops in tackles.

“I’m somewhat surprised at how I’ve done, but I’ve been playing football since I was in sixth grade for contact and flag before that,” Eric told me during his playing days. “I know what I can do. Actually, I think wrestling is harder because there are so many moves.”

Eric was humble when it came to evaluating his performance for a team that finished 5-5.

“Game to game, I’ve done all right,” he said. “Some games I did good, some games I did bad.”

Coach Nolan W. said Eric wasn’t one of his biggest or strongest players, but one of the best. Through hard work that included weight training and lots of running outdoors and on the treadmill, Eric built himself into a powerful athlete. His work ethic and self-reliance started at a young age. He didn’t want any help, from simple tasks like tying his shoe to working on the family farm.

As a football player, he didn’t want special treatment either.

“He puts himself in position to make plays,” Nolan said. “He’s a great outside linebacker for us. … I want to see all my players do well, but Eric has given me chills down my spine after some of the plays he’s made. I definitely feel something extra special coaching him because of the adversity he’s faced.”

Eric was an inspiration to not only his own community, but Ohio and beyond.

Like, a 19-year-old athlete in Texas, who lost his arm while working on a car. He had heard about Eric, called him and the two talked for 45 minutes, with the usually quiet Eric offering lots of encouragement. When Eric’s family read about a girl in Central Ohio who lost an arm following a boating mishap, they contacted the family and again Eric was able to offer hope.

Eric’s story has a message anyone can gain strength from: hard work and dedication can allow people to overcome seemingly great adversity.


At Home Fitness consultant Aaron Dorksen’s blog deals with a variety of fitness topics, ranging from workout tips, motivational ideas and feature stories on how exercise impacts people’s lives. E-mail him with comments, questions or ideas for future blogs at