Unsung Hero: Nubability Coaches - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Unsung Hero: Nubability Coaches

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DU QUOIN -- A unique sports camp brings accomplished athletes together with kids aspiring to be better in their sports. But the campers and coaches are doing more with less.

"I looked over at my mom and I was like, 'I want to start a camp,' and I'm pretty sure she gave me one of these because it's not something that really comes out of your mouth," said Nubability CEO and Founder Sam Kuhnert.

Sam remembers when he first had an idea to host his own camp for people with limb differences.

In 2012, that dream was a reality when the first Nubability Sports Camp was held in Du Quoin with less than 20 campers and seven coaches.

Fast forward to 2017, and more than 150 campers and 60 coaches will converge on Perry County this weekend for the 6th annual camp.

Sam says his mission is making these athletes realize their full potential. 

"To give these kids the opportunity to compete, to get these kids the opportunity to be kids, to be athletes, to really come out and be the best they can be at everything and to show them that they were created perfectly. That's what it's all about," said Sam.

Sam is an accomplished athlete playing and coaching baseball at the collegiate level.

He enlisted the help of dozens of other successful athletes from varsity sports to the pros.

All of the coaches have struggled with their own difficulties learning how to play sports with missing limbs or fingers.

"It's not a matter of if it's a matter of how," said Jackie Kenyon with Hands to Love. "And sometimes how takes a while to figure out but we can always figure it out."

Hayden Thompson comes to camp from Texas. She feels like she's meant to be here coaching kids that look like her.

"We feel like we were made to be here, and we think that this is where we're supposed to be and this is how we're supposed to be helping and that's why this happened to us." 

Some of the coaches were born this way while others suffered injuries or accidents like Bree McMahon.

Bree was hit by a car in 2009.

"The first thing I asked when I came out of my coma was, 'When can I run again?'" said Bree.

Bree went on to play soccer in college for five years.

She's back for the 4th year coaching other aspiring soccer athletes.

Barbie Thomas is also here for her 4th year.

She mainly coaches tumbling but is also going to help coach volleyball this year, despite having no arms.

Nubability focuses on kids first but the parents often learn valuable lessons too.

"They come in and they see all of these amazing coaches doing it with one arm or one leg and showing they how they do it," said Dorian Willes of Idaho. "It's also cool not to see the change in the kids, but the parents, too."

The coaches say sometimes the parents are afraid to let their kids do certain things for fear of injury or failure. But they say sometimes the kids need to fail to realize how to get back up and try again.

"There's more coaches that look exactly like the kids," said Hayden. "So now they get to see someone doing all of these things and they get to watch them and then the parents get to watch them."

These coaches travel from all around the country to be in Du Quoin for camp each year. They don't get paid but say the rewards are priceless.

"They come in and push these kids because they remember what it was like when they were a kid," said Sam. "And to give these kids those steps to advance their career that we didn't have."

Barbie says she hopes this camp brings about big changes to all of the athletes attending.

"I'm hoping when they leave they feel more confident in themselves and realize I can do this, as long as I put my mind to it," she said.

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