Athlete Spotlight: Sean Meek

By June Converse.

If you know Camp Abilities, you know the founder and directors are committed to introducing physical fitness and sport to children who are visually impaired. It’s a camp of inclusion and acceptance, participation and accomplishment. But Camp Abilities is also dedicated to training and developing future educators and leaders in the field of Adapted Physical Education. What you might not know is how early this training begins. 

The Counselor-In-Training program allows those campers who have aged out of camp but value physical fitness to become mentors to the next generation of up-and-coming athletes. Who knows best how to convince a camper to face fears than a young adult who at one time had to do the same? Who knows how best to support a counselor than someone who at one time had to be counseled? Who knows best how to enhance the programs at Camp Abilities than a camper who spent year after year attending and excelling? 

Like being a teacher or a coach or a counselor, a Counselor-In-Training must be passionate about the importance of sport and inclusion for children who are visually impaired. A CIT has an especially important role to fill and a CIT is a very special person indeed.

Sean Meek is one of those special people. Sean is an accomplished athlete and fueled by the desire to improve on the track and encourage others to do likewise. He has his sights set on reducing his time in the mile and becoming a CIT at Camp Abilities. 

Sean Meek has every quality Camp Abilities could desire in a CIT.

A CIT Understands the Challenges of the Visually Impaired

When he was four years old, Sean was diagnosed with a brain tumor which left him with zero vision in his right eye and less in his right. Sean will be able to stand alongside a younger camper and understand the fear. He will know what to say to both support and challenge. When he says, “I remember when …”, the new camper will be able to relax saying, “If Sean can do it, so can I.”

A CIT Has Past Experience and A Strong Belief in Camp Abilities

Beginning at the age of 10, Sean has attended Camp Abilities in both Saratoga and Brockport each of the last four years. He knows the ins and outs of life at camp. He knows exactly what will be bewildering. 

When I asked Sean what he would tell children or parents who are concerned about going to Camp Abilities, he said, “We are always safe, and we are never forced to do anything. Everyone goes at their own pace. We start by building relationships with the counselors. It’s about building trust.”

“We have fun and make new friends. It’s not fun if it doesn’t go well.”

A CIT Believes in the Importance of Sports

Sean’s message regarding physical activity is pertinent to children who are visually impaired. The message is pertinent to everyone.

“Sport is exercise without knowing your exercising. You balance stress. You gain an attitude of ‘If I can do that, then I can do anything. Not just in sports but in academics and socially.’”

“Sports is a way to meet people and be part of a team. Even individual sport has some team element. Sports builds confidence in everything.”

A CIT Takes His Own Physical Health Seriously

In July 2019, Sean was awarded the George Roe Athletic Achievement Award through the Albany County Youth Bureau. Senia Fleming, the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany (NABA), said this at the Award Ceremony:

“Sean plays soccer for the Town of Bethlehem and an indoor travel league for Afrim’s Sports. He is also a member of the Albany Star Fish swim team, Delmar Track & Field Club and the Bethlehem Modified Cross Country and Track Team.”

He doesn’t simply participate …

A CIT is Dedicated to Setting and Pursuing Goals

Sean doesn’t just run. Sean is a runner. What’s the difference? A runner knows his time and is never satisfied. His current mile time is 5:50 but his goal this year is 5:40. In cross country, he knows his times for each course and is dedicated to finishing faster. According his his mother Tracey, “We have to find a new guide because he’s too fast.” 

The only way to improve performance is to improve technique. At Camp Abilities, Sean learned more about technique and those lessons showed in racing times. “The counselors push you to meet your goals. I hear what other kids are doing and I’m motivated to push myself. I can do more.”

Setting goals builds a competitive side that “we can take back home to other areas of our lives”.

But Sean doesn’t define an athlete as someone who competes or brings home trophies.

A CIT Understands What An Athlete Really Is

“You don’t have to be a fast runner or kicker. An athlete means trying a new sport, be willing to experience new things. Be willing to have fun. That’s what Camp Abilities gives us.”

A CIT Understands The Importance of Success

Sean is successful. He’s a good student. He excels on the track and cross-country course. He plays the piano, works on his school’s IT desk, competes in the chess club, and qualified for the national Braille competition. 

But he sees other ways to define success. “We do fun activities – talent night – where everyone can shine. We open new worlds. Counselors are good at drawing out [all types of] talent.”

As I spoke with Sean, he was adamant that everyone can be “successful at something. Everyone receives an accolade for trying.”

Sean and two camp abilities peers posing for a photo with their arms around each other. All 3 are smiling at the camera.

A CIT has the Right Personality and Attitude

As Senia Fleming said, “He leads by example, respects others, and has earned the respect of staff and students alike. Words our staff would use to describe Sean are: role model, open to new experiences, gets along well with everyone, great sense of humor, diligent, helpful and a leader.”

At Camp Abilities, Sean has won “Camper of the Year”. Camper of the Year goes beyond athletic achievement and speaks more to Sean’s attitude about sports, about achievement and about people. 

A CIT is Willing to Give Honest Feedback

One of the questions I posed to Sean was, “If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change at Camp Abilities?” We sat in silence for a second and I expected him to tell me he had no suggestions. Instead, he said, “I get why we have to have teams, but I’d like to have a way to get to know younger and older campers. We can do that during meals and in the evening, but we usually hang with our team. It’d be nice to find a way to meet more people outside our team.”

It wasn’t the suggestion that impressed me. Sean is 14. How many fourteen-year-olds are willing to be honest and forthright to give a critique to adults? 

Sean has ideas and he’s willing and able to articulate these. That’s bravery. That’s what a mentor should be.

A CIT is Both Coach and Mentor

A Counselor-In-Training works with both the counselor and the camper. To be effective, a CIT must be empathetic and encouraging, straightforward and self-assured. Sean has all of these qualities and so many more.

Camp Abilities in Brockport and Saratoga have cause to celebrate. In a few years, Sean Meek will take his role as CIT and the campers will be all the better for it.

~submitted by June Converse

~A Loss of Sight, Never A Loss of Vision~