Open Door Sports: Empowering Girls Through Sports and Seeing Abilities not Disabilities
Former D1 soccer player (Vanderbilt) and National Women’s Soccer B Team member, Sarah Albus, is the mother of four teenage daughters, one of whom, Hannah, has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability. Sarah and her husband, Mark, have worked throughout Hannah’s life to fulfill her simple wish to “be on a team like my sisters” and, in navigating this dilemma, saw a vacancy that needed to be filled – both in the special needs community as well as in communities that struggle with a lack of financial resources.
Says Albus, “Although we live in the very sports-centric metro DC area, we could not find a team for Hannah that was focused less on her disabilities and more toward championing her abilities. Not only did we want quality coaching, we really wanted Hannah to feel the joy of working as part of a team; the sense of camaraderie, pride, and excitement.”
In September 2016, along with founding partner, the Player Progression Academy (PPA), Albus started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization – Open Door Sports Inc. – out of a desire to provide high-quality sports programming to ALL kids in the Metro DC area regardless of perceived ability, financial need, or location.
It is a point of pride for Open Door Sports that no child is ever turned away, regardless of their physical, intellectual, or financial challenges. Albus continues, “It really does take a village! In less than two short years, we are now offering programs in 10 schools, having coached over 235 players and trained 150 peer buddies who help with mentorship on the field while earning their school community service hours.”
Open Door Sports currently works with students in the K-8th grades and offers soccer, basketball, and bocce, as well as special partner workshops such as ZamDance (a form of Zumba that is geared toward students with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other intellectual development disabilities), and Fitness Training through local Spirit Club.
As demand for Open Door Sports programming continues to rise, Albus and her colleagues are excited to find ways to expand their reach and help more students. “The impact on students when they join an Open Door Sports team is huge; not only do they get to expend energy which has a very positive effect on their ability to concentrate and succeed in the classroom, but also their confidence, which is often quite low at the beginning of the season, grows and blossoms – it’s a wonderful thing to see!”
Open Door Sports Inc. is very proud to be taking part in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Sports Forward summit on September 17.
Albus concludes, “Having under-represented girls and women in sports be part of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Sports Forward summit is just wonderful. Sports are an amazing tool for the empowerment of women and girls; the lessons learned on a pitch, court, course, or pool go far beyond mere physical sports, they give our daughters the confidence to succeed and enjoy collaboration in every aspect of their lives.”