“I knew I could do it and I did-“ Nina Nissly
In August 2012, Nina Nissly achieved her ultimate goal. She scored a spot on the USA Women’s Sled Hockey Team. Nina’s interest in sports began when she was eight years old, and although she was born with cerebral palsy, Nina did not let that stop her from pursuing her goals. Swimming particularly caught her attention. When she first moved to Lake Forest, she searched for a swim team fit for her ability and found Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA). She quickly learned that this organization provided adaptive sports for youth, teens and adults with various disabilities and thought it was a perfect fit. At GLASA, Nina joined the swim team, wheelchair basketball and sled hockey. Participating in these sports helped her develop her athletic abilities and prove to herself that she could do anything.
As an athlete, Nina believes that perseverance is a must-have quality. Playing sports poses challenges such as intense training and a major time commitment. Nina says that she has to train every day and that pushing through a workout can be very difficult. Nina does not let training intimidate her; instead, Nina exceeds her own expectations and finishes every training session with a smile on her face. She believes that giving up is not an option, and always reassures that she is doing all the training because she loves to play sports. Not only does she train hard, but she also dedicates an immense amount of time to the sports. Nina has to juggle being a teenager, a student, and an athlete all at once, but she manages to do this flawlessly. Over the years, Nina has learned the tricks to time-management, and has kept up with her hectic schedule. She says she does it because she has a desire to persevere in sports, and also because of the satisfaction these bring about.
The sport that Nina is most passionate about is sled hockey. Tom Daily, her coach at GLASA, introduced sled hockey to Nina. He simply asked her to check out the new team and with great interest Nina did. She immediately fell in love with the sport and its uniqueness. Nina loved how each player had everything customized. The sled and blades were all made to the player’s desire, and everyone stood out as an individual. Once she began playing, she became stronger and her endurance increased tremendously. The fact that Nina was a swimmer also influenced her ability to play because it allowed her to score stronger shots and in general, be a better player. Nina has been playing sled hockey for seven years now, and is at the peak of her career as a sled hockey player on the USA Women’s Sled Hockey team.
“When I found out I was on the team, I couldn’t stop smiling-“ Nina stated. Her mom was the first to hear the big news through an email, but soon after, Nina checked the roster posted online and found out about her great accomplishment. The Nissly household was full of joy and pride for their daughter. Nina has started the season now, and she will be playing her next game in Pennsylvania. She says that she goes into every game hoping for the best, but most importantly, to have fun. She hopes to develop even more as a sled hockey player by increasing her athletic mental and physical strength. Nina says that she wants to make the best out of this experience, and also inspire other disabled people to pursue their dreams as athletes. At GLASA, Nina is already someone that the younger athletes and parents look up to, and Nina hopes to make this impact on other disabled athletes at a national level through the USA Women’s Sled Hockey Team.
Joining this team is only the first few steps Nina is taking into her future. As a senior at Lake Forest High School, Nina is thinking about what college to attend. She is primarily interested in the University of Whitewater in Wisconsin, where she wants to pursue anther dream of hers, becoming a graphic designer. This University not only caught her eye because of the advanced adaptive sports program they have, but also because of their amazing graphic design program. Whichever direction Nina decides to take in her future, you know she will making the impossible possible, and following her motto: “ Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, instead, prove to them that you can-“ Nina Nissly.