Team manager lives his dream with help from Norwalk seniors

It was Billy Rarick's dream-come-true Friday night when he led the Norwalk Trucker basketball team onto the court to warm up. It was a unprecedented honor for two reasons - Rarick is only a sophomore and he's the team manager. The final home game of the season is usually reserved to honor the seniors, but the five young men who lead the Truckers asked their coach to allow Rarick to dress in uniform, lead the team onto the court to warm up and possibly play in their last home game.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

It was Billy Rarick’s dream-come-true Friday night when he led the Norwalk Trucker basketball team onto the court to warm up.

It was a unprecedented honor for two reasons — Rarick is only a sophomore and he’s the team manager. The final home game of the season is usually reserved to honor the seniors, but the five young men who lead the Truckers asked their coach to allow Rarick to dress in uniform, lead the team onto the court to warm up and possibly play in their last home game.

Obviously the relationship between Rarick and the seniors, along with the rest of the team, is very special.

Coach Steve Gray remembered when Rarick, who is autistic, first asked to be manager for the basketball team when he was a freshman last year.

“He came to us a shy introvert who didn’t even want to talk to me,” Gray said. “Now he gives me advice and suggestions. He makes my job easier and he allows the players to do their jobs a lot better.”

Gray said Clay Duncan and Jacob Willis, last year’s seniors, started to bring Rarick out of his shell. Everyone on the team could tell how much Rarick loved basketball and how dedicated he was to doing a good job, Gray said, so they started including him in after-practice activities.

“It has been more than just during basketball practice and games,” Gray said. Duncan and Willis took Rarick to a Cleveland Cavaliers game last year.

The bonding between the athletes and the manager continued this year, Gray said. This year’s seniors include him when they go out to eat occasionally.

“We have a quality group and Billy is a good manager,” he said. “It has been good for everybody associated with the program. The kids care about him.”

The way the school’s star athletes have developed a friendship with a student who faces the challenges of a condition like autism just shows the character and maturity of his athletes, Gray said. “It has been a win-win situation for everyone.”

This year’s seniors, who willingly gave up part of the limelight of their last home game for a younger student who normally doesn’t even get on the court, said they just wanted Rarick to know how important he is to the team.

“Billy loves basketball, but he couldn’t make the team so he’s the manager,” Kyle Smith said. “He’s been there for every practice and every game and everything else. This will be special for him.”

“This is not only for Billy,” Kyle Kurtz said. “It means a lot to other people — his mom, his dad and the entire student body. He’s earned it. Personally, I think it is a great honor to have him look up to us the way he does. I look at him like my little brother.”

“We’ve gotten pretty close to Billy over the last two seasons,” Spencer Krebs said. “He’s a part of our little family now.”

“When he first got here, he was very quiet,” Nathan Heckelman said. “He’s really opened up and now he talks to a lot of people. He’s grown up in so many aspects.”

Tyler Smith summed up the reasons the seniors asked for Rarick to lead them onto the court. “We wanted Billy to dress because it means a lot to him and to us as well. Watching what he goes through every day shows us not to take anything for granted,” he said.

Rarick was very excited about the honor the seniors gave him and said it was a night he’d never forget. He said he especially looks up to this year’s five seniors.

“I consider them really good role models,” he said. “They have made me feel like I’m actually part of the team.”

While he would love to be able to be part of the team on the court, Rarick said he knew his autism makes that impossible so he just wants to be part of the effort as a manager. He never imagined that the seniors would include him with this special honor.

Practicing with the team all week was difficult at times for the sophomore. Gray said he developed a special play for both offense and defense in the hopes he would be able to give the sophomore some playing time. That meant learning something new for both the starters and Rarick.

“It is kind of confusing with all the drills,” Rarick said. But that didn’t stop his enthusiasm for finally getting the chance to don a Trucker uniform and spend some time on the court with his friends.

Game time or not, Rarick will never forget this Friday night.

Comments

Dennis Stieber

Billy is indeed very special. His social skills have increased significantly because of his experience in being a manager of this team. Billy has also taught us the meaning of perseverance. He is a role model for us as well. Coach Gray was right - it isn't always about the wins and losses. It's through experiences like last night that makes us look inwardly at ourselves and realize what life is all about - the people in our lives. Kudos to Billy's parents Brad and Sheila for their part in encouraging him to be "just like any other teenager". We love you Billy!

NHS Alumni (Ano...

What a great night it was last night for Billy. Even though he didn't get to play, I'm sure he will never forget last night's game.

I would also like to thank the seniors who came up with the idea of Billy dressing. I would also like to thank Seteve Gray for giving Billy the oppurtunity to play. It was a very selfless act for all of them.

Congrats to Billy and the NHS basketball team..... you guys DESERVE it!

Former NHS parent

Something not generally known ... earlier this year, some numbskulls were making fun of Billy in the lunchroom. Several of the basketball team members saw it and intervened. They invited the deriders to make fun of them instead, if they had the nerve to (which they did not). The players then had Billy sit at their table with them, where I hear he has remained. The final stats for the season don't matter that much -- these guys are exactly who everyone should want to have representing the school. They've learned class and maturity lessons that a lot of people don't master in a lifetime.

Anna

More teams should read this and quit thinking about themselves and focus on others who aren't as smart, or talented as they are and the world would be a better place.

Way to go TRUCKERS.

Sue Pollack

After reading this story, I was so proud of Billy, the team and Billy's family. I haven't seen Billy since he was in fifth grade, when I was one of his teachers. I knew then, he was very special. I now live in Florida but read the paper everyday online. What a treat today was! Congratulations Billy and keep up the good work.

Another parent ...

Great story. Props to the seniors on the NHS basketball team. Good luck to you guys in your post-high school endeavors. You ARE true role models who all obviously have a lot to offer this world.

Karla Bickley

As a parent of autistic son that is also in the Norwalk Schools, I have seen many wonderful kids that show how very well they have been brought up. The caring, concern, acceptance, patience and real regard for my son and his disabilities has been overwhelming at times. I credit the parents of these individuals with instilling in their children the best qualities that will make them excellent adults, for they are already showing the promise with the way they treat others that are different then themselves. I congratulate the children and the parents for doing such a great job, and that is exactly what I want to show my son what the world can be for him.