WEST PORTSMOUTH — The word “quit” isn’t in Abby Adkins’ vocabulary, and it never has been.
West’s starting freshman point guard has to work a little harder than most, has to study the game a little longer and has to adjust a little quicker. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.
In fact, she’s never known any other way.
Adkins was born with clubfoot, a birth defect that causes one or both feet to twist inward and downward. The abnormality makes walking difficult or, in some cases, impossible.
Abby doesn’t just walk.
“I was born with clubfoot, so like, I walk on my tippy toes. I don’t know how it affects me on the court, really. I’ve just always had it,” Adkins said. “So I’ve always played through it. Sometimes, I’ll get more tired than anybody else usually would. But I just fight through it because that’s what I’ve always done.”
Some have told her that it was impossible to play basketball with clubfoot. Some have told her that playing basketball at a high level was impossible. Some have told her that finding success as a freshman, and adapting to the speed of the game, was … you guessed it … impossible.
But if you know Abby, you know that “impossible” also doesn’t have a place in her vocabulary.
“This is my third year here and since Abby has been a seventh grader, I’ve been around,” West coach Jason Claytor said. “Her dad coached junior high for me over the last couple of years and, obviously, him and I have had quite a few conversations. I knew what type of player she was, a type of floor general that took control, but I didn’t know if the speed of the game would affect her or not. It was one of those things where I didn’t think it would but we were going to throw her out there and see what happened. We were going to figure it out on the fly.”
And so they did … and it worked.
Sporting a brace on her left foot — one that acts as a heel during practice and games — Abby became an imperative part of the Senators’ future upon her arrival. Since, West has handed her the keys to the offense.
“I was kind of nervous coming into this year but I had met all of the girls and I knew that they would take me in well,” Adkins said. “I knew they wouldn’t treat me any different.”
Still, she is different. It’s a good different, a type of different that inspires.
Sometimes, that can be overlooked simply because it’s just something she’s always dealt with.
“I started playing when I was five,” Adkins said. “I started realizing I had to work a little harder than other girls in third or fourth grade. In fifth grade, everybody started talking about [her foot] and it didn’t feel like anything special to me. I was born with it. But when everybody started talking about it, it made me realize [it was special].”
Even for Claytor, it’s hard to remember the nightly obstacles that Abby is forced to overcome.
“I realize what she’s doing but to a certain extent, I don’t,” Claytor said. “It’s Abby. It’s the only Abby I’ve ever known. [Clubfoot] is part of her and to me, that’s probably what makes her the player she is. It’s kind of like that sixth sense you have to develop because some of that quickness and speed that she doesn’t have, and that’s none of her fault, she’s had to develop some other things to counteract that.”
Before each game, Abby says she always thinks about the task at hand, what West’s opponent is going to throw at her, and how she’s going to get the offense in a rhythm, among other things.
Claytor says her best traits are court vision and a certain feel for the game. If you’ve watched her play, you know that makes perfect sense. She’s the type of player that isn’t going to score 20 points each night out, but she’ll have a hand in almost every bucket the Senators come by.
“I chose basketball because it’s more of a team game. That’s what I like most about it,” Adkins said. “I think I get everybody involved well and I always look to pass first. I believe that if you don’t get other people involved, then your team starts to fall apart. I don’t think you’re going to win if you don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle put together.”
That’s a typical answer from Abby and one that understandably makes Claytor smile.
“The one thing that I really like about her is that when you ask her about her goals, it’s never about scoring,” Claytor said. “Everything is about getting her teammates involved. That’s the type of kid that she is. That’s what she does. She makes everybody around her better.”
On and off the court.
Abby, who thanked her family, friends, teammates and coaches for always picking her back up when she falls, plays because she loves the game of basketball.
But there’s another reason why.
It’s the reason why she plays so hard, the reason why she refuses to let anyone else dictate what she can and can’t do, and the reason why she allows what makes her different to be the reason why she’s so unique.
“I’ve always want to go out there and inspire people,” Adkins said. “Just to know that I’m doing that, it’s all worth it. Nobody should ever let anything stop them just because someone tells you that you can’t do something. Just because they say that, it doesn’t mean you can’t. If you believe you can do it, you can do it.”
The word “quit” isn’t in Abby Adkins’ vocabulary, and it never will be.