No matter whom he's guarding on the court, Greenville (Ohio) High School sophomore Will Coomer knows he's already faced down far tougher opponents. In fact, Coomer's mere presence on the court is an incredible achievement when you consider everything he's had to deal with.
Coomer's troubles date back to preschool, when the hearing in his right ear began to fade. By the time he reached 2nd grade, he was completely deaf in that ear.
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In 7th grade, Coomer encountered a new health foe: vertigo, the dizzying disease that makes you feel like you're spinning even when you're sitting motionless. The condition came on during certain activities, forcing Coomer to give up some of his favorite hobbies, like riding go-karts and going to movies. To this day, he can't watch a film without feeling ill.
"When there's a lot of action, my eyes and brain think I'm moving, even when I'm not," Coomer says. "I get really dizzy."
But surprisingly, the condition has never effected Coomer in the one place he finds solace: the basketball court. Since players use hand signals to call plays, Coomer's hearing issues are not a problem. He says, "My favorite places are probably my house and the gym."
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Inspired by his grandfather, a tenacious rebounder who also played locally in Greenville, Coomer grew up playing basketball. About his grandfather, he says, "If you go to a basketball event around here, people recognize him. I was like, 'Oh wow, this is really cool. I want to be like him.' I still play for him."
From second to fifth grade, Coomer played YMCA ball before getting serious in middle school. The sport didn't come naturally to him. "I couldn't dribble or shoot or anything," Coomer says with a laugh. "I really didn't like [basketball] at all because of how terrible I was."
But after a rocky seventh grade year, Coomer vowed to get better. He spent his off-season working out and practicing, getting good enough to earn a starting spot on his 8th grade team. He didn't score a ton of points, but he was a hound on the boards—just like his grandfather.
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Coomer's teams won only two games during his 7th and 8th grade years. But instead of being depressed by the losses, he worked harder. He started playing AAU ball during the summer; and he enjoyed the experience so much that he decided to continue his basketball education by spending three weeks at IMG Academy in Florida, one of the premiere basketball training centers in the country.
"That was the best time of my life," Coomer says. "The environment is amazing. It made me realize how much I love the game."
After his time at IMG, Coomer felt more confident in his game, which centered on his rebounding ability and his jump shot. Entering Greenville High School, he expected to start on the JV team, but he struggled mentally on the court. He couldn't turn his brain off, and he got down on himself when his shots wouldn't go in or he didn't play well.
"I let that destroy my game," he says.
Coomer was relegated to the freshman team, and although he didn't want to be there, he averaged 6 points and 9 rebounds a game. Vowing to be even stronger as a sophomore, this past summer he returned to IMG, where the coaches helped him calm his mind and live in the present instead of dwelling on the past or obsessing about the future. Today, after each workout, Coomer meditates, observing his thoughts as they pass by and slowing them down to the point where he's no longer thinking of anything at all.
Feeling like he's conquered the mental beast in his head, and with an improved jumper to boot, Coomer is out to make an impact on Greenville's team this season. He wants to start on the varsity, and he's already looking down the road to college, where he wants to play in Division I. "There's nothing that I can't do," he says.
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