This season, basketball practices at John Carroll University have been a lot more fun. Not because the coaches are taking it easy on the players. But because of who is at practice now.
His name is Simon Greenspan, a 21-year-old from Shaker Heights, who attends every practice for the Blue Streaks.
Greenspan runs the clock during practice and helps lighten the mood by cracking jokes.
He enjoys many of the same activities that a typical college aged student does, such as video games, hanging out with friends and sports.
One area that Greenspan differs from most is that he has a learning disability that causes him to take more time than normal to read and do math.
“I do things a little different than everyone else,” says Greenspan. Because of this, he feels that people often don’t take the time to get to know him.
“People don’t understand me because I’m different.”
With Greenspan’s passion for sports and his close proximity to campus, his mother called Laurie Massa, athletic director at John Carroll, to see if Simon could get involved with a team at JCU.
He started going to the men’s basketball practices and made an immediate impact. Senior Terry Walsh said, “Simon has been a testament to the work ethic for our team. He shows up every single day to help us out with practice in any way that he can. He is a real character with plenty of jokes for all occasions.”
Greenspan started going to women’s practices a couple of weeks ago and already has lightened the mood according to some players. “Any opportunity Simon has to crack a joke, he takes it, and sometimes there is no opportunity and he makes one anyway,” said senior Allison Kern.
Sophomore Rachael Price says that Simon helps the team with their energy level at practice. “When we are having one of our not so great practices, he’ll crack a joke when we are getting water or something that makes us all laugh and it really lightens our moods.”
When he was younger, Greenspan says he was made fun of a lot by other kids in school because they didn’t understand him.
It’s a feeling that Greenspan doesn’t easily forget because of the pain it caused him. “When people tease you, it doesn’t make you feel good at all.”
His friends told him to try and ignore the harsh words by others, but that is easier said than done. “It’s hard to ignore people because I still hear what they say and it hurts,” said Greenspan.
This is part of the reason he always has a smile on his face at JCU because “everyone here treats me well.”
Greenspan has helped the team in ways that can’t be measured on the basketball court.
“He has taught each and every one of us just how important it is to enjoy each and every day,” said JCU student coach Conor Donelon. “He helps remind the team that whether we win or lose, it’s just a game.”
With Greenspan serving as their inspiration, the men’s basketball team hosted two clinics this season for kids with disabilities.
Head coach Mike Moran believes the players get more out of the clinics than the kids.
“It makes you realize how fortunate you are.”
Senior Pete Moran added, “It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community and it’s something all the guys on the team really enjoy doing.”
As for future plans, Greenspan’s dream is to become a sports announcer. While helping out at practice, he works on his skills.
“When one of the players makes a good play or shot, he commentates the action as he works the scoreboard,” said Kristie Maravalli, the women’s head coach.
This past weekend, Greenspan announced his first two games at Ursuline College.
With that came the realization that sometimes dreams become reality.