“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” – Bill Gates
Seth Goldberg has been playing wheelchair basketball for almost 25 years. Like many young kids in the 90s, he was inspired to get into basketball by an all-time great.
“As a kid, I watched my favorite player Michael Jordan play and I told my parents that it would be cool to play wheelchair basketball,” Goldberg recalled.
Goldberg was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease and a seizure disorder that caused severe hearing loss at a very young age. But you only need to talk with him for a short period of time to understand that he’s not the type to let any sort of disability stop him from living life to the fullest.
However, Goldberg doesn’t credit his own persona for that. He says that his parents never let him believe there was something he couldn’t do. No matter what he wanted to, his parents tried their best to help him accomplish his goals. When he wanted to play wheelchair basketball, they immediately started the process of getting their son into the sport.
Over the next decade, Goldberg played on three different teams, including the namesake of his favorite player’s team, the Chicago Wheelchair Bulls. Although the Illinois native is completely deaf in his left ear and has 95% hearing loss in his right ear, he found a way to work around it.
“I can read lips, so during games I have to have one eye on my coaches at all times to see if they are calling out a play,” Goldberg explained. “It’s tough, but my teammates are always there to help me if I miss a play call.”
Goldberg is always quick to credit the help that he’s received during his basketball career, whether its his teammates, coaches, parents or community at large. He appreciates every bit of help be gets from people and pays it forward in a big way.
On his team, the Chicago Skyhawks – DIII, Goldberg is the grizzly veteran that helps lead the Skyhawks on and off the court. “My role is basically to work a lot with the rookies to try to help them learn what wheelchair basketball is and how to play.” Goldberg claimed. “I try to help them have good sportsmanship and show them that although no one likes to lose, you have to have fun while playing.” He described how when he started playing, he leaned on veterans on his teams, so now he wants to do the same for his younger teammates.
After 25 years as a part of the NWBA, he has seen it all when it comes to wheelchair basketball. And that includes seven trips to the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament presented by ABC Medical. Although the core of the Skyhawks team has been together for roughly four years, Goldberg is still the only player on his team who has been to the tournament.
And with less than a month to go before the first game of the tournament tips off, he has been trying to prepare his team as much as possible now that they have been selected to play in it this year. “I’m talking it up to my teammates to make sure they don’t get shocked when they first get there,” the Skyhawks veteran explained. “It’s an amazing thing to experience when you go into the convention center and see court after court of the best wheelchair basketball teams in the nation. It is truly amazing.”
Although the veteran is fully focused on preparing his team for the national tournament, the NWBT is not the only major event coming up for him. In May, Goldberg will be awarded the 2018 Outstanding Young Person of Illinois, an award that recognizes individuals between the ages of 18 and 40 who excel in their chosen fields and show a great commitment to their respective communities.
Look at Goldberg’s resume and you can see why he would be chosen for this award. He is currently serving his third term on the Arlington Heights Commission for Citizens with Disabilities and is a volunteer for the Arlington Heights District 25 Everybody Counts program which is designed to teach children about disability awareness. He also serves as the Muscular Dystrophy Association Ambassador for both the Arlington Heights and Buffalo Grove Fireman’s Fill the Boot campaign.
With all those activities on his plate, it’s hard to see how he could have enough time in his schedule for wheelchair basketball. “It does get overwhelming sometimes,” Goldberg admitted. “But I love it. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”
Two things are obvious about Goldberg when you speak with him. First, this is a man who doesn’t let anything get in the way of living his fullest life. Second, he just wants to give all he has to help those around him be the best version of themselves.
And that is summed up by his personal mantra: “Take care of others before you take care of yourself.”
This young man empowers others and that’s what makes him a great leader for the Chicago Skyhawks.