Coupeville has a dynamic duo

Coupeville girls basketball coach Greg Oldham prepares to pass the ball while John Hagemeyer looks for the steal. - Cynthia Woolbright
Coupeville girls basketball coach Greg Oldham prepares to pass the ball while John Hagemeyer looks for the steal.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Physically, Coupeville High School students John Hagemeyer and Max Christensen may have never experienced the luxury of walking but if someone was to think that’s prevented them from doing what they want, would they ever be wrong.

“People look at the chair and not the person,” Hagemeyer said. “That’s the biggest thing I see.”

Both were born with spina bifida, the most common disabling birth defect. According to the Spina Bifida Association of America it affects approximately one out of every 1,000 newborns in the United States. The defect is a result of failure of the spine to close during the first month of pregnancy and can result in varying degrees of paralysis in the lower half of the body.

After overcoming multiple surgeries and being forced to wheelchairs for their entire lives, the duo has proven there isn’t much they can’t do.

Most recently when looking for more gym time to play basketball, they were asked by coach Greg Oldham to help out the Coupeville Wolves girls basketball team by becoming managers.

“I came to him to see if I could practice every now and then and he just asked if I wanted to be a manager,” Christensen said.

Oldham was extremely impressed by their willingness to help out the program.

“They came to me the first day of school this year and they said we want to do anything we can to help,” he said.

Hagemeyer and Christensen haven’t disappointed, showing their commitment to the team by coming every single day to perform their managerial duties.

“We’re there every road trip, every home game, every practice,” Hagemeyer said.

Among responsibilities performed are keeping game stats, running the score board and clock during practice, folding uniforms, taping and wrapping ankles and getting ice.

“What I appreciate about them is their willingness to help,” Oldham said. “They are giving young men rather than taking.”

What they do allows for others to concentrate on things they might not otherwise be able to focus on and that doesn’t go unnoticed by the team.

“When it comes to practice they’re willing to do anything,” senior Erica Lamb said. “They’re really encouraging, I like having them there for extra support.”

Hagemyer and Christensen are both enjoying the experience of managing the team as well.

“It’s fun and it’s something to do after school,” Christensen said.

Hagemeyer agrees with his friend of four years.

“I like the competition and keeping in shape,” he said. “It looks good on a resume and it’s an extra curricular activity.”

Although this is their first year managing it isn’t the first run-in they have had with the girls team. Every Saturday during basketball season the two, along with their Whidbey Wheels teammates have hit the court to compete with some of the Wolves in friendly games of wheelchair basketball. The tradition was started three years ago, when Oldham was hired as the Coupeville head coach.

“I by accident ran into Julie Christensen who said it was hard to find gym time,” Oldham said. “I thought, aha, here’s a way we can do a lot of good things at once.”

It allows for more time on the court for Whidbey Wheels and provides the girls with a new appreciation for just how talented Hagemyer, Christensen and their teammates are.

“They tear us up,” Lamb said. “They’re so much faster than we are in wheelchairs and they go so hard.”

After trying wheelchair basketball a couple of times last year and receiving sore arms and blisters in the process, sophomore Lexie Black shows tons of admiration for what they’re able to do on the court.

“They can turn so fast, they can nail a turn and then dribble it,” she said. “They’re so coordinated and I really respect that because it’s something I can’t do but I would like to learn how to do.”

After claiming a berth to districts and acheiving a number nine ranking in the state, Oldham knows his team wouldn’t be where they are without the hard work and support of his managers.

“We wouldn’t be as good as we are if they weren’t helping our team,” Oldham said. “One of the things I stress is that everyone in our program has a role. Just as important are the roles that our players on the bench play and the roles that John and Max play.”

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