The Flyer

Skinner won’t let disability block his dream

Photo: Sam Robison

Flyer Sports Editor Kelly Hart, who is a member of the Fairmont Girls' Varsity Basketball team, tries to shoot over freshman Justin Skinner, an accomplished wheelchair basketball player.

By Kelly Hart, Sports Editor

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To view a Soundslide on Justin Skinner and Kelly Hart’s wheelchair basketball challenge, click  HERE.

Obstacles are an inevitable part of everyday life. However, obstacles come in all different shapes and sizes and certainly in different degrees of severity as well. Some people give up in the face of obstacles, while others persevere.

But few people are faced with the obstacles Justin Skinner, a freshman at Fairmont High School, has dealt with his whole life. Skinner was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal cord or its coverings fail to develop completely. That results in a protruding sac of fluid on the spine that causes motor difficulty. In Skinner’s case, he is confined to a wheelchair and occasionally able to use crutches for short distances.

But Skinner hasn’t given up; he’s found ways to rise above his disability and pursue something he loves – basketball.

Skinner said he has always loved basketball and wished he could play it, but his wheelchair made that dream seem far-fetched. That was until he heard through friends that wheelchair basketball was an up-and-coming sport.

A varsity player in the 8th grade

Skinner plays for the Turnstone Flyers out of Fort Wayne, Ind. He started for the varsity team as an eighth-grader, and his team went to the national competition last year and finished 15th out of 50 teams. “It was pretty awesome playing on the varsity team last year,” Skinner said. He’s a returning starter for the Flyers this year.

Skinner also participated in the Faculty Wheelchair Basketball game last year and gave South Unit Principal Tyler Alexander a run for his money. “I kept stealing the ball from him, and I could tell he was getting frustrated,” said Skinner. “After that, I found out he was going to be my principal next year and I was pretty scared.”

Skinner is doing everything possible to not let his disability hold him back. He’s open to trying new things, even if there’s a chance of failure. He even has tried wheelchair rugby. “It was really painful but fun,” he said.

One of Skinner’s goals is to get wheelchair basketball more recognition. He wants to get the basketball teams at Fairmont involved, too. “Playing in a wheelchair is a lot harder than regular basketball, and it would be fun to see how they do,” he said.

Taking up the challenge

As a 3-year member of the Fairmont Girls’ Varsity Basketball team, I couldn’t walk away from a challenge like that. It’s safe to say that I’m pretty comfortable with a basketball in my hands. After all, I’ve been playing nearly my whole life.

But Justin Skinner tested that comfort when he made me sit in a wheelchair with a basketball.

Justin taught me the basics of wheelchair basketball: dribbling rules, practice drills and little techniques. We shot around for a bit and I’m sure I looked like I had never touched a basketball. Justin was chasing after rebounds and picking up the ball without slowing down, as I spun in circles.

After shooting around, we attempted a game of 1-on-1. There was no getting past him. I couldn’t get more than three dribbles until I’d have to throw up a prayer that had no chance at all.

When it was Justin’s turn to have possession, he had no trouble dribbling around me and shooting in a simple lay-up. He made it look easy.

For all the amazing moves Justin made during our time together on the court, it was something he said afterward that really caught my attention. Justin was making his way across the school campus in his wheelchair while pushing another wheelchair in front of him. I offered to help, but he replied, “I don’t need any because I have to do things on my own.”

At that point, I thought of all the little obstacles Justin faces; opening doors, getting in and out of vehicles. But he doesn’t look at any of those as obstacles. His positive attitude allows him to conquer everyday difficulties.

He doesn’t know it, but Justin changed the way I look at basketball. Sometimes I dread an upcoming practice and curse my aching legs, but why should I? I should celebrate being able to play, just like Justin does when he plays.


19 Responses to “Skinner won’t let disability block his dream”

  1. Mallory Yount on October 28th, 2010 4:10 pm

    Justin rocks a lot. I have known him since sixth grade. He rocks the wheelchair. He is better at gym than I am! LOL.

  2. Leah Brough on October 28th, 2010 8:54 pm

    What a great article! Thanks for sharing Justin’s story with the school and community.

  3. Susan Berg on October 29th, 2010 11:17 am

    Terrific article. I enjoyed reading it very much. Way to go, Justin!

  4. Dexter Carpenter on October 30th, 2010 12:56 pm

    Kelly, this is SUCH a good article. Almost made me tear up! Justin sounds like a rad dude, and I feel like it must have been hard for you to be on the weak end of the court :)

  5. J & M Osterday on November 2nd, 2010 9:53 am

    We’re so proud of Justin and what he has accomplished! He has a good attitude and a driving force to meet his goals. Great job, Justin!!

  6. Jane Skinner on November 2nd, 2010 11:15 am

    My husband and I have many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews, but none are we more proud of than we are of Justin and his family! They are our heroes and have been since Justin’s birth. No challenge has gone unanswered nor seemed to overwhelm them. We look forward to all that Justin will accomplish. We appreciate your article and hope that it will encourage others who face challenges as well as showing those of us who think we have it tough just what tough really is!!!! Jane Skinner, Williamsburg, Iowa

  7. Hannah on November 2nd, 2010 1:47 pm

    Justin, keep going strong. Now I know things are not impossible after reading this. Keep your head up and never give up. There are a lot of people that are looking up to you, Justin. ((:

  8. Dave Pier on November 4th, 2010 8:13 pm

    Dear Justin,
    You are an inspiration to anyone who knows you, young man!

  9. Sherman Skinner on November 5th, 2010 11:24 am

    Great article!! About a great young man!! As his grandad, I’ve been so proud of how Justin and his family have handled his whole situation. It has been an inspiration to us. We saw him play in the regional finals in Philadelphia last year and look forward to seeing him play again this year.
    Thanks for the article and for lifting up such a wonderful story and such a great young man. With his “can do” attitude, he’s going to make some amazing contributions during his lifetime — already has!!!

  10. Mrs. Jenny Borchers on November 6th, 2010 10:44 pm

    I remember watching Justin last spring effortlessly block both Mr. Alexander and Mr. Von Handorf. I think for Justin’s senior year, the senior/faculty basketball game should be a wheelchair basketball game!

  11. Mrs. Claire Chilson on November 10th, 2010 1:21 am

    Justin – I see you’re still going strong – and still so independent! Congrats on your basketball success. Hopefully I’ll get to see you play someday. What a great story!

  12. Mrs. Heather Fawley on November 10th, 2010 9:17 am

    Justin, you are a fabulous young man, both on the basketball court and in the classroom. I have always been impressed with your drive to succeed and your independent spirit. It is good to know that you have carried these traits with you to the high school. I look forward to following your story of success! Have a great basketball season this year!

  13. Lindsay Gustafson on November 10th, 2010 9:24 am

    Justin is indeed awesome. I had him in art class all middle school and he works hard in all that he does! It is great to see that he is becoming so accomplished at his basketball…. we may see him competing at the national level very soon!

  14. Teresa Wyman, KMS Unit Principal on November 10th, 2010 10:26 am

    Justin is a great role model to other students in many ways. I’m so pleased to see him continue to lead by example at the high school.

  15. barb ryan on November 10th, 2010 10:54 am

    I knew you would always succeed at whatever you try when I had you in class as a sixth grader. Continue to to set your goals high and reach for them! I am very proud of you. Awesome article!

  16. Lyndsi Doll on November 11th, 2010 4:30 pm

    I remember the first time I saw Justin. Right from the spot, he blew me away at how his disability had no affect on his mobility level whatsoever. He’s so inspirational, and such a cool kid with tons of potential. Justin, keep rocking the basketball! Keep it up and don’t let anything slow you down!

  17. Madison Reece on February 7th, 2011 12:22 pm

    Great job, Justin. You rock the floor better than a hurricane (:

  18. Olivia Puterbaugh on February 9th, 2011 11:22 pm

    Aw, Maddy. Yeah, you’re right. He’s amazing!

  19. Justin Skinner on October 28th, 2015 8:17 pm

    This popped up on my Facebook’s “On This Day” from 5 years ago. This was one of the most memorable things I was a part of in high school. Looking back, I realize how much I have changed in the past 5 years. One thing that hasn’t changed, is I still love the game of basketball.

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Skinner won’t let disability block his dream