Tabraziah Comfort just wants to play. As the basketballs ricochet off the rim at Louisa County Middle School’s gym, Comfort darts to each one, sometimes struggling to decide which to grab first. When she makes her choice, she launches it back at the rim, glancing at the ball just long enough to see if it goes in before she moves on to another one.
The fact that the team is trying to run an organized layup session doesn’t deter her from her mission. The 13-year-old forward for the middle school’s girls’ basketball team is just doing what her tall frame and long arms were seemingly made to do.
Her older brother’s friends have labeled her “Pickpocket,” because she can steal the ball from them. She challenges her coaches to games of one-on-one. She plays her sisters whenever she can.
“She just loves basketball,” head coach Jordan Goodwin says as she watches from the bleachers. Leaning in, she adds, “And, she’s really, really good at it.”
Comfort loves basketball because it gives her a chance to be like everyone else. Comfort has an intellectual disability, which means she doesn’t learn quite as fast as most children, and she has to take special education classes at LCMS.
Those classes help her feel like a normal student. Basketball makes her feel like a superstar.
“She’s really athletic,” said Goodwin, who also teaches Comfort’s special education classes at LCMS. “Last year, I noticed that when we would come to the gym, she would always want to play basketball. She would tell me, ‘Coach Goodwin, you can’t block my shot. I bet you can’t!’”
“She’s very competitive,” Comfort’s mom, Angela, said. “She has always been good at basketball.”
What started with Goodwin – who played basketball at Roanoke College – showing Comfort a few pointers during gym class last year, has turned into something much more. At the end of last school year, Angela approached Goodwin with a request.
She wanted to see her daughter keep learning the sport. She also wanted to see her on the middle school team, a request that LCMS granted.
“The fact that this program is open to including students that are in my class is amazing and beautiful,” Goodwin said.
But merely seeing Comfort as a member of the team wasn’t enough for Goodwin, who readily admits she is overly protective of her students.
“I said, ‘That’s it, if she’s going to play, I want to be the coach,’” Goodwin said. “I wanted to be with her and experience that with her.”
This year, Comfort has been a regular member of the team. In practice, she runs the floor with the other girls. She claps when someone makes a shot, and tensely writhes on the bench when someone makes a mistake.
To read the entire story, see the Oct. 3 edition of The Central Virginian.