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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Homestead’s Nadia Bedwell was born with cerebral palsy but will soon sign to play soccer collegiately.

  • Next to playing soccrer, volunteering is one of Bedwell’s favorite activities.

  • Bedwell

Friday, September 01, 2017 1:00 am

Kicking away the odds

Spartans' senior to play in college despite disorder

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Goals may not be as frequent for soccer defenders, but one Homestead girls player has defied the odds against her and reached every one she’s set for herself.

Nadia Bedwell, 17, was born with cerebral palsy, which affected her legs from her hips to her feet. The condition became evident as she began walking but frequently tripped or fell.

Now, as a senior defender, she’s in her third year as a member of the Spartans’ varsity team and will be signing to play at NAIA Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, on Sept. 8.

“Early on, she had trouble walking, she would fall frequently which led us to further investigate,” said her mother, Tara. “She started having surgery around age 3 and they were Botox injections to paralyze the muscle.

“They would put casts on both legs to keep the muscles in a certain position. The casts would stay on for eight to 10 weeks, and we would remove the casts and she would do intense physical therapy.”

Four or five procedures later, Nadia underwent an Achilles-lengthening surgery to ease some tightness that had developed.

“I just remember wearing a cast,” she said, “and I remember in kindergarten, I had to be in a wheelchair because I wasn’t allowed to walk. I remember doing the physical therapy with the (exercise) band a lot.”

Bedwell started playing soccer at age 4 but didn’t pick it back up again until she was 8 because of the procedures and subsequent therapy.

It wasn’t until middle school that as the efforts on the pitch increased, so did the increased tightness in Bedwell’s legs.

“My soccer hadn’t been as intense and the older I got, the more intense I got,” she said. “It was harder on my body, and my body would react and it was different than everyone else. My mom explained it all, and I realized how much I had to do outside of practice.”

Bedwell says that since high school, she goes to the trainer to roll out and stretch, which she does frequently.

“Before, I would take ice baths after games,” she said, “but recently, I’ve started taking them after practice because I’m so tight.”

In addition to playing for Homestead, Bedwell is a member of the Fort Wayne Sports Club Strikers travel team that competed at the national tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last year.

It was there that she met Evangel head coach Bruce Deaton.

“When (my dad and I) were driving home, (Deaton) offered us to come visit the school and I actually got sick,” Bedwell said. “All I wanted to do was go home and figure out what was wrong and get better. My dad said, ‘We’re only down here once,’ and we went and visited and walked around. After about 10 minutes of (Deaton) talking about it, I fell in love.

“I wanted NAIA or Division III and wanted to actually play. A lot of people who go D-I sit the bench and don’t play until their junior year.”

Bedwell said she wanted to attend a small, private Christian school.

“I wanted a smaller school because I wanted to feel connected. I didn’t want to go to another city,” she said. “Being a Christian university was important because I wanted to grow my faith.”

Aside from soccer, Bedwell does a lot of volunteering. The list includes the Community Harvest Food Bank, a Christian organization that meets with students at Woodside and Summit Middle Schools, Homestead’s Key Club and a church camp over the summer.

“I just love volunteering, and it’s rewarding,” she said. “(Community Harvest is) one of my favorite service things that I do and seeing the joy on their faces.

“Most people in the line, this is their week’s worth of food and just seeing their happiness (is rewarding).”