Limb Loss Doesn't Stop Teen From Playing Sports
Greg Robinson had just started his second tenure in 2016 as basketball coach at South Central High, a 214-enrollment school serving the communities of Elizabeth and Laconia and the surrounding countryside in the rolling hills of Harrison County in Southern Indiana.
Robinson was running a youth camp for elementary students that summer, showing the young campers the correct mechanics for shooting a free throw. He explained to the kids how their thumbs should form a “T” on the ball. Robinson then walked around the gym, making sure each of them had their thumbs in the correct position.
He stopped at sixth-grader Landis Sims, who was born without hands and without legs below the knee.
“He said, ‘Coach, I don’t know if that is going to help me out,’” Robinson recalled. “He had a big smile on his face. That’s probably the first conversation I had with him at that camp. At that age, he was already very comfortable with his situation.”
Sims, 15, is now a freshman at South Central. He is 6-foot-2, playing mostly on the freshman team with a few minutes here and there on the junior varsity. He wears No. 35. Sims loves to compete, especially in baseball, his favorite sport.
Even during the basketball season, he makes regular visits to New Albany to work on his hitting and stay sharp for baseball season. But basketball is fun, too, and he especially enjoys announcing the South Central varsity games for the school’s YouTube channel.
“He’s like every other kid,” said his mother, Amanda Sims, a business teacher at South Central and a 1996 graduate of the school. “He just knows he has to work a little bit harder.” 'Just watch me' Landis, since he was 6 months old, loved any sport with a ball. He started playing basketball in a church league at age 3 with prosthetic legs. He started playing baseball the following year.
“He was barely able to run that point with his prosthetics, but he just loved being part of a team and having that experience,” Amanda said. “Physical therapy for him was playing sports. That’s how he got so good with walking and running. It was because he had this passion for sports.”
That passion has never left Landis, who goes through the drills and routine of a South Central basketball practice with welcome normalcy. He catches every pass thrown to him, shoots with a nice, easy backspin and is a willing screener. Landis’ teammates do not think twice about treating him the same as everyone else. “They go 100% with me,” Landis said.
Like any motivated athlete, Landis is always in search of added inspiration. He knows there are those out there who may question what he can accomplish – even to his face. Landis’ motto has always been: “Just watch me.”
“I like when people tell me I can’t do something,” he said. “So I can prove them wrong. It gives me more grit to go out and do it. Last year, somebody I hang out with a lot asked me if I was going to be a manager because they didn’t think I’d be able to keep up with the team. I said, ‘No, I’m going to play. I’ll keep up. And I have so far.’”
Landis’ South Central teammates do not have to look far for their source of motivation. Christian Kiper, also a freshman and South Central’s second-leading scorer, has been friends with Landis since the first grade. Kiper said anytime he thinks about complaining or feeling sorry for himself at practice, all he has to do is look over at Landis.
Those moments of self-pity are fleeting. “There are so many things that I’d never guess he could do but he does them,” Kiper said. “He surprises me. He’s very inspirational.”
But even Amanda had her doubts a few years ago that Landis would be able to accomplish what he is doing now. Not because of anything he could not do personally, but because of the technology.
The prosthetic legs he had at the time did not have much flexibility or bounce. Landis lagged behind the rest of the team getting up and down the court. “The technology changing the last couple of years is absolutely the reason he can compete at this level,” Amanda said.
There were some great connections made along the way that helped Landis. Through the Challenged Athletes Foundation, Landis, a New York Yankees’ fan, was invited to spring training in 2016.
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