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Double Amputee Overcomes Obstacles to Become a Collegiate Athlete

Williams in goal- playing in her "caps."

Born without her tibia in both legs, at just 15 months old doctors amputated above the knee cap, and Danika Williams became a double amputee. Growing up, she remembers that it was not often that she saw people who looked like her. Williams recalls many stares, and struggled to comprehend why people would look at her that way. She says that she just smiles and waves at those who stare at her now. Throughout her younger years, Williams played basketball through middle school, and then fell in love with the exhilaration of racing. Going into her sophomore year, Williams was looking to find a home; a place where she could escape from any struggles in life. After attending an open house for lacrosse at Davie High School, Williams fell in love. Williams has fallen in love with the process; one that is full of discipline, dedication, commitment, and time management.

Williams in her prosthetic legs after a training session.

Williams has two different types of prosthetics: her daily basis legs are very heavy and provide little mobility. Therefore, Williams trains in her “caps”- smaller prosthetics that she slips over a gel placed over her leg with hooks on to strap the caps onto her body. These caps provide Williams the ability to be mobile and quick, a very important necessity when in goal. Additionally, Williams and her goalie coach altered her lacrosse stick by moving the top hand down a bit so she was able to reach high shots. Williams described her passion for the game as, “lacrosse is when you make that big save for your team. Your team depends on you… That’s one of the things I love most about the position [of goalie].” Williams completed her first year of lacrosse finishing with all conference her first season with 185 saves. An honor that landed her with a recognition in the “Brick Wall Goalie Club” for having 23 saves in one game. While she has found success within the net, Williams feels that the biggest achievements have been found within the team. “As a team, we definitely improved together, and I feel I have gotten a lot closer with my teammates.” Williams claims that while she is motivated and driven to pursue her goals, she endures more mental than physical challenges, personally. Not only has she found that past coaches overlooked her hard work, she exclaims that, “I’m underestimated as a double amputee, they think ‘oh she’s short’ but that doesn’t matter.” Williams hopes to educate coaches in regards to how they portray their recognition of athletes’ hard work. Williams utilizes the comments from individuals as motivation to fuel her fire and drive on and off the field. She emphasizes that, “one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to overcome any obstacles in your way. You can do anything you put your mind to.” Williams has found that while she is a double amputee, her hard work and determination is no different than any of the others girls on the field with her. The future looks bright for Williams as she has been tackling the recruiting process as an incoming junior.

Danika Williams and her goalie coach, Kate Mullen

Kate Mullen, Williams’ goalie coach has helped her navigate the tricky process. Mullen, a goalie coach with an impressive track record, has a background in college coaching as well as college admissions; Mullen has been instrumental in Williams’ recruiting process. Mullen exclaimed, “We started working together last fall... Williams is a natural student athlete who is very driven, and will be very successful in every facet of life.” Mullen has helped drive Williams to understand that while she may love the coaches and the people, the institution needs to make sense for her. Mullen stated, “She needs a campus that makes sense for walking around (accessibility wise), close to home, and a coach that understands who she is and where she comes from.” After talking with various coaches at different levels, Williams stated that she is “really interested in Erskine College. I think the coach there is amazing!” After attending an event called Next Step (an event that helps athletes and their families comprehend the transition from high school to college athletics) she met with Coach Cody of Erskine College. “Coach Cody wants to know me as a person, not just an athlete. He checks in on me to see how I am doing, and I really appreciate how he treated my family and I.”

Williams is ecstatic to get to the collegiate level, “one thing that makes me so excited about college is everyone works as hard as you, everyone wants it, and everyone respects one another as they have earned their way to their spot.” Williams is still indecisive regarding what she will study in college. Williams is looking to earn a playing spot and make history: “I want a coach to want me for my skills and everything else I come with, I do not want them to see me as any different than the rest of their players.” Regardless of where Williams goes in the future, her mindset will take far: “I hate when people say practice makes perfect because you can’t be perfect. You’re human. I think practice makes progress and progress makes you better.”

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