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Life & Work with Jamie Benassi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Benassi. 

Hi Jamie, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
About six-and-a-half years ago I was asked to come try sled hockey. Sled hockey is a sport for physically challenged athletes. The local team is the Cincinnati Icebreakers run by Renee Loftspring. I thought I was coming to watch a practice but Renee got me suited up and in a sled, as soon as I got to the rink. I was a little skeptical because no one in my family had ever watched hockey and it had always appeared very aggressive. As soon as I got on the ice and skated around for a bit, I knew I found my sport. It is so exciting and makes me feel free. After two-and-a-half years I set a goal to be on the Women’s U.S. National Sled Hockey Team. There was a lot of work to be done to get stronger and faster. In 2020 COVID struck, and the Icebreakers chose to cancel the season. The local team in Indianapolis, the Indy Steel, were still active and my parents would take me every Saturday to practice with them. Although the Icebreakers cancelled our hockey season, they offered a performance coach, Aaron Slusher, and I started going to him twice a week. That helped me a tremendous amount on top of going to Indy every weekend to get ice time. By the end of the 2020-2021 season, I was confident enough to find out where I stood among the other female players. Tryouts for the Women’s Team would be held in July of 2021 in Voorhees Township, New Jersey. I got the call two weeks later stating that I had made the team. Now, I have even more hockey in my life due to playing for two teams at a time. Ultimately, if it weren’t for my parents, my performance coach, my hockey coaches, and everyone else involved, my dream of making the National Team would’ve never come true. Now, I travel just about every month for hockey. This summer, the Women’s team is preparing for a World Challenge that will take place August 23-28 in Green Bay, WI. I’m so excited to have this opportunity and be surrounded by the greatest women in sled hockey. This event will help grow the sport of women’s sled hockey as it is not yet in the Paralympics. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
COVID did cause a big challenge because most tournaments were cancelled, most teams cancelled their seasons, and it was hard to stay motivated which is why I am so grateful to have been offered a performance coach and the opportunity to be able to play with the Indy Steel. 

The big struggle with the Women’s team is that other countries still need to grow the sport so we can make this a Paralympic event for the women and not just the men. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I was born with caudal regression and sacral agenesis so I have limitations with my gross motor skills from my hips down. I’m 17 years old, and I’m going to be a senior at Turpin High School. I plan to go to college and become a nurse. I know how nurses impacted me when I was in the hospital, and I want to be able to give back. 

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
Some could consider my disability as bad luck, yet I wouldn’t have any of these amazing opportunities or people in my life. I’m lucky to have my family, friends, and coaches there to push me and encourage me to keep striving to be my best self. 

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AZ Focus Sports

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