Thursday, June 17, 2010

On Tim Howard (A Star Athlete Who Has Tourettes)

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3 Comments:

Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Tourette’s has helped, not hindered, Howard

By Martin Rogers, Yahoo! Sports
6 hours, 40 minutes ago

IRENE, South Africa – For Tim Howard, a cough is never far away. Nor is a twitch, a slight jerk of the head or the irrepressible urge to clear his throat.

Yet while the United States goalkeeper has battled with Tourette’s syndrome ever since his early childhood, he claims he wouldn’t change his condition, even if there was a magical cure to fix it.

“It is part of who I am,” Howard said. “I don’t take any medication for it and I don’t want to. Sometimes people find it hard to understand that I don’t want to change it. It’s something I have gotten use to. It is what life is for me and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.”

Howard has been one of the World Cup’s outstanding goalkeepers so far, earning man of the match honors in last Saturday’s 1-1 draw against England, his first appearance on the biggest stage of all.

His standout display was one of the high points of a career that he once felt would be impossible due to his affliction. He may need another first-rate performance on Friday at Ellis Park against Slovenia, whom the USA needs to beat to keep its hopes of advancing to the round of 16 alive.

It is estimated that 200,000 Americans have the most severe form of Tourette’s syndrome, and as many as one in 100 exhibit milder and less complex symptoms. In extreme cases, some can exclaim socially inappropriate comments or profanity. Yet only two American athletes with Tourette’s have made it as stars in pro sports, Howard and former Denver Nuggets point guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.

When Howard was growing up in New Jersey, Abdul-Rauf was his hero, giving him the belief that pro sports could be an option.

“I loved that guy and he really made me think there might be a career path open to me that I had never dreamed of,” Howard said. “It is easy to assume that the condition will get the better of you and prevent you from doing certain things. I would still love to meet him and get his jersey.

“I am proud of what I have done, what I have overcome and the fact I have had this career despite of it. It makes you appreciate things and work harder and it is very satisfying. When you come to an event like the World Cup, you want to show your best side even more and it is the ultimate test of character. You have to draw upon everything you have ever been through.”

When Howard made the switch from Major League Soccer to Manchester United of the English Premier League in 2003, the British tabloids quickly made his condition public knowledge. One insensitive headline read: “United’s Swearing Saviour” – even though Howard doesn’t cuss due to his condition.

EPL crowds were not kind either. Even fans of his current club team, Everton, have been known to sing songs that parody his affliction.

Moving to Everton, after four years at United, really added impetus to Howard’s career and established him as one of the best keepers in the world. He has emerged as one of the most consistent players in both the Everton and U.S. squads and become an on-field leader who has a calming influence on his defenders – even if he sometimes has to keep them in shape with a verbal blast of criticism.

“Timmy is one of the guys who you get great pleasure from looking back and seeing the way he has come on,” USA head coach Bob Bradley said. “I first saw him as a young goalkeeper with a lot of talent and a lot of drive. Over the years we have seen that potential be realized and seen him come of age as a player and a person.”

These days the 31-year-old Howard is happy with the way his career has progressed. He’s also glad to be a Tourette’s sufferer who promotes awareness of his condition rather than hide it.

“It is always there,” he said. “A cough or a tic or clearing my throat, blinking a lot. Honestly, I would miss it if it wasn’t there.

“If you offer me the chance to not have it, I wouldn’t take it.”

June 17, 2010 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger uriyo said...

Nice! Thanks for posting this.

June 23, 2010 at 2:27 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Yeah. I was taken by this. One of my most outstanding students has Tourettes and I wonder sometimes if I may have or have had elements of it myself. Uri, I'm glad this article struck you as meaningful and that you let me know so.

June 23, 2010 at 6:09 AM  

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