It’s the meeting many parents worry about when they notice their child seems to be a lot more energetic and active than other kids they know. Lake Nona resident Sophia Rogers remembers the day her son’s fifth-grade teacher requested a conference with her and her husband, Jeffrey.
“She told us we may want to have Gabe tested for ADHD,” she recalls. “We were surprised and felt disappointed in ourselves that we’d let our son down because we had missed something that we should have noticed earlier.”
Sophia and her husband realized Gabe had extra energy, yet he did so well in school that they had hoped he’d improve as he matured. They had Gabe tested and, at their physician’s recommendation, agreed to try medication. They were also eager to find other options to help him concentrate and direct his energies in ways that would progress his schoolwork, help him develop friendships, and participate in extracurricular activities.
“As I observed Gabe and thought about the best ways to help him, I caught an interview with swimmer Michael Phelps’ mom,” Sophia says. “She talked about how sports was a key to help him focus, and since I had been a varsity swimmer in high school, I loved the idea of Gabe swimming.”
When Sophia introduced the idea of swimming lessons, Gabe dismissed it but said he’d like to try football instead. So, Sophia enrolled him in the Lake Nona Youth Sports football program when he was in sixth grade.
Lake Nona Youth Sports is a community nonprofit organization designed to cultivate and enhance a young player’s skill and passion for sports. The all-volunteer coaches for football, cheer, wrestling and lacrosse offer kids, ages 6 to 14, an opportunity to participate and compete in a fun, safe and exciting sports environment. Lake Nona Youth Sports also has partnerships with rowing and baseball programs in South Orlando to offer additional sports for kids to try.
Sophia wanted Gabe to learn the importance of being part of a team and how to handle frustration and mistakes, as well as how to celebrate accomplishments while showing gratitude and respect. For a few years, Gabe succeeded in school with the help of medication, but when he was in eighth grade, he wanted to discontinue it. Sophia and Jeffrey supported his decision.
“Putting the focus on sports instead of medication was a good decision for us,” Sophia says. “At Lake Nona High School, Gabe continued to play football and joined the weightlifting team, where he really excelled. As a senior, he took his team to the state championships and placed 12th overall, taking second for his 365-pound bench press.”
Gabe graduated as an honor roll student and is now attending college. His mother couldn’t be more surprised – and pleased – at his choice of a major. Gabe is a junior at UCF, studying sports and exercise science.
“Playing youth sports gave Gabe the opportunity to focus his abundant energy, but he also learned much more than just how to tackle, catch and throw a football,” Sophia says. “He learned about failure and teamwork, how to get back up when you lose, and how to have greater confidence that comes from within. Today, I’m incredibly proud of the young man he’s become.”
Sophia is so grateful for the benefits sports offered Gabe that she currently volunteers as the social media coordinator for Lake Nona Youth Sports, managing their Facebook page. Visit them at https://www.facebook.com/LakeNonaJuniorLions/ to learn more.
Valerie Sisco lives in Lake Nona and is the author of the blog, gracewithsilk.com.