Idaho Moments: A player with developmental disabilities inspires Rocky Mountain High

kgreen@idahostatesman.comNovember 10, 2013 

Joey Bach takes a handoff from the quarterback, cuts through the defense and runs for a 30-yard touchdown. The running back is swarmed with congratulations from his teammates, and something else: the opposing players. This play has repeated itself in a pregame down for the Rocky Mountain High School football team since the Sept. 19 game against Boise High.

Joey has multiple developmental deficiencies, including microcephaly (an undersized brain), cerebral palsy and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) part of the autism spectrum. Despite these disabilities, Joey has been a member of the Rocky Mountain football team for four years and attends every practice dressed in full pads. He spends nearly every moment of a Rocky Mountain game cheering on the team.

Joey's mom, Jennifer Bach, said "When Joey was 6-7 years old we would be in the car and pass teens playing football, and he would want to stop the car and play. 'My team, my team,' he would say. We would say, no Joey, we need to find you a team, we need to find you a coach."

Rocky Mountain Head Coach Scott Criner is that coach, and the Grizzlies are that team. Joey's dad, David, said Criner "stresses that every member of the team is equally important. He takes time to work with Joey one on one, coaching him through his position drills." The members of the football team have taken Joey in as part of their family. They pick him up if he falls at practice. They take him to lunch during school hours. He is no different than any other member of the team.

The Grizzlies are a football team fostering mutual respect and understanding. These are the character traits sports should be teaching young men and women.

In a time where you hear so many bad things about sports, let me offer the Rocky Mountain football team and their opponents as a counterpoint. I once saw a quote from former Baltimore Colts player Joe Ehrmann posted on the wall of a football locker room. It said, to become a better man, "Practice the concepts of empathy, inclusion and integrity. Learn the importance of helping others. Develop a cause beyond yourself." Indeed. I am happy to report the spirit in this message is alive and well in the Treasure Valley.

Kyle Green: 377-6433

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