11 Jul #MyExceptionalStory: Larry Larkin
Six-year-old Larry Larkin came to E-Soccer when it first started in the year 2000, and has come every season since. Larkin came to E-Soccer to experience the inclusive environment as a player. Being on the autistic spectrum, Larkin enjoyed the fact that he didn’t have to be put into a group separate from his friends.
“With E-Soccer I’m just so amazed. Honestly I’ve had a great time with E-Soccer . . . So the way it’s changed my perspective is that I feel included with everyone else . . . No one says, ‘oh this guy has autism, he should be with the autistic [group].’ Nope, here it’s everyone included. ”
The friendships Larkin created at E-Soccer not only gave him the opportunity to be included, but he also credits them with the growth in his confidence: “Because of the inclusion I felt, I think in a way it’s improved my friendships that I’m not too shy to talk to the typical people or the special needs people.” Developing his confidence and communication skills has lead to Larkin becoming a leader in his community.
In 2008, fourteen-year-old Larkin became a coach at E-Soccer. Now, if you go to E-Soccer on Saturday mornings in Foster City, you will see Larkin leading, smiling as he coaches and encourages his players. When asked for his favorite moment in coaching, Larkin had ample examples,
“Man there’s a lot of moments I could get through, but [my] favorite moment as a coach was . . . sometime after I first started coaching. I think just being introduced [to my players]. I think my favorite moments come every week. You know just leading the stretches, leading the groups. I think just teaching kids and giving instructions on how to do this drill or how to do that drill. I think those are my favorite moments.”
One of the other E-Soccer coaches, Nathan Schaffernoth, describes Larkin’s coaching style as attentive, patient, knowledgeable and understanding. Coach Larkin uses his experiences as an individual with autism to bring awareness to the needs that some of the players with various disabilities may have. His leadership allows E-Soccer to strive further towards its inclusive ideal.
It is important that people with disabilities are given the opportunities to be leaders in the community, especially in organizations that serve such individuals. Just as Coach Larkin’s experience brings a necessary perspective to E-Soccer’s coaching staff, leaders with disabilities bring invaluable knowledge, skills, and diversity to our communities. “‘Nothing about us without us’, that is our call in the disabled community,” says Ancil Torres, principal officer of the Torres Foundation For The Blind. The “Nothing about Us Without Us” movement aims to involve people with disabilities in the decision making processes in every sector of society, from fashion to politics. People with disabilities are affected by and deserve to be included in every part of society, therefore they need to be a part of the conversations and decisions that form society. Without people with disabilities in leadership, society is created in a way that isolates the disability community. For example, sidewalks lack wheelchair ramps, schools often don’t employ teachers with disabilities, exclusion becomes the social norm, and the benefits of having an inclusive environment are lost. We need more leaders like Larkin in our communities.
Coach Larkin aims to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. Currently attending Foothill College, Larkin will major in either Broadcasting, Journalism, or Communications. His dream is to host SportsCenter. The skills and perspective that Larkin contributes to E-Soccer are sure to be beneficial to any career that he chooses to pursue.