Sammy Rhodes has made some amazing achievements in her athletic career, and she is on her way to compete internationally.
Sammy Rhodes has always been a multi-athlete who loves staying active. Although growing up with Spina Bifida was tough at times for the 18-year-old, she has never let her disability stand in the way of the activities she loves.
“Growing up with a disability taught me more about life than anything else,” she says. “You can choose to look at your disability in a positive or negative way. I know, for me, I have looked at it in both ways. I used to be bothered by the fact that when I walk into a store all eyes are on me because of the way I walk, but all I can say to those people is that my parents were once told I would never walk. Yet, here I am 18 years later.”
Throughout the years, Rhodes has had over 25 surgeries which has taken a toll on her childhood. While she’s thankful for the surgeries for making her as healthy as she can be, she has struggled seeing the inside of a hospital so many times.
“My surgeries have completely broken me and built me up at the same time,” Rhodes says. “It’s really hard to stay positive when you’re in and out of the hospital what seems like every other week, but the surgeries have helped me maintain my health, so I’m thankful for my incredible doctors. Pain is another factor that people will never understand. Constantly being in pain and having to put on a strong face for everyone in your life is hard. 18 years later, I feel that I am truly blessed to have Spina Bifida because without it I wouldn’t have found all of the blessings I have in my life.
Rhodes credits sports for helping her maintain a healthy lifestyle. They keep her body moving, which is good and helpful for her walking. Sports have helped her through some tough times and they keep her strong and confident. Over the years she has participated in horseback riding, swimming, softball and track and field. She will be competing at the International Wheelchair and Amputee (IWAS) Games this summer.
“Honestly, just getting this incredible opportunity to compete with my friends and represent my country is way more than I could’ve dreamed of,” she says. “Getting the chance to represent the country I live in is just an unexplainable feeling, and I’m so excited to leave it all out on the track.”
To prepare for the big competition, Rhodes will continue with her high school team. She also lifts weights to stay strong. She will be participating in meets and competitions, one in Arizona and one in Illinois, before the IWAS Games so she will be ready to compete on an international level. Competing can be very nerve-racking, and Rhodes tends to get nervous before her track meets.
“A race is 90% mental and 10% physical,” she says. “I usually get very nervous leading up to track meets, but once I am on the track I block out everything and focus. I get a good night rest the night before and get up the next morning and give myself plenty of time to warm up. Listening to music is a great way to calm my nerves so right before I go out I will turn on my favorite music. Most importantly, I will say a prayer right before each race asking for strength and the ability to perform my best and to allow me to be positive with the results.”
Her mom has played a major role in her involvement in sports. Luckily, Rhodes has a big support system who have been there for her through every step of her journey.
“I will never be able to thank my mom for all she has done for me,” she says. “Without her I wouldn’t be on the track today. She has been the one person in my life who will never let me quit. She has spent her life making sure I am the best person I can be, and I can’t imagine my life without her.”
Rhodes is very fortunate to have a support system that goes beyond her mother. She has other family members and friends who are always there to cheer her on.
“Having my siblings and grandparents on the sidelines cheering me on is the best support anyone could have asked for. They come to all of my meets and are my biggest fans. And finally, my friends. I have no idea where I would be without their support. They are the reason I love track so much. They create such a positive atmosphere and have helped me overcome many things in my life.”
Despite the hard times, Rhodes pushes through and never gives up. She has a few quotes that help her to remember to be positive, and those are, “every day might not be good, but there is something good in every day,” and “work hard in silence, let your success be the noise.” She also always remembers to stay kind and humble.
For newly injured children, Rhodes says “there’s going to be those days that you will feel the world is against you in every possible way. Don’t ever let that get in the way of chasing your dreams. Find the one positive thing in your life and work hard so you can prove to yourself that you can do it. Most importantly, do it for you, not anyone else.