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Meet Volunteer Instructor Hannah Fandl

Volunteer Instructor: Hannah Fandl

Age: 20

Hometown: Poughkeepsie

Attending: Union College

Major:  Psychology & Neuroscience

How did you find out about the Adaptive Sports Foundation?

A friend mentioned that an ASF member had come to school to advertise the program.

What made you want to volunteer?

I missed the official pitch but everything my friend described was exactly what I am into: skiing, snowboarding, and helping others.  ASF seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do something good for others while simultaneously doing something good for myself. The more I researched what the Adaptive Sports Foundation really is; I wanted to be a part of every bit of it.  I had worked with the handicapped before but never in such physical situations.  I couldn’t wait for the training session.

What was it like coming to the ASF for the first time?

My first trip to ASF inspired an extreme spectrum of emotions.  I was overwhelmed by all of the new people.  Originally, my friend and I had made plans to have the ASF experience together, but at the last minute those plans changed and I ended up all alone.  The presentation was incredible.  From the history of the program to the stories that instructors shared about their students, everything that we did that first day was amazing.  The only hesitation I had at that moment was whether or not I was capable of doing something so amazing, and while I was up to the challenge, I was certain that my efforts wouldn’t be enough.

How was your training experience?

My first training experience was less than spectacular.  I was nervous, I didn’t really know anyone, and it seemed that everyone there was ten times better than me on the snow.  After the first day I felt that I had learned so much…about what I didn’t know.  I drove home and decided that I was going to spend the next season improving my skills and then come back the following year.  Turns out, finishing out the training weekend was the best choice I ever made.

Describe your most challenging teaching experience/student as a snowboard instructor?

I can’t really label one specific experience as being the most challenging; it was all of the experiences put together.  I found that the most challenging part of being an Adaptive snowboard instructor was with myself.  I was incredibly nervous.  What if something happened?  What is my student got hurt?  Those nerves didn’t completely go away but I relaxed enough to feel competent.  You learn what you need to know during the training sessions, and you are constantly acquiring new techniques and information that helps you give lessons.  Towards the end of my first season I was teamed up with another instructor to give a lesson to a man on a bi-ski.  My biggest fear came true when the bi-ski flipped over and the student’s face was cut and bloody.  I thought I would never take out another bi-ski again, but I learned from that experience that things don’t always run smoothly.  You learn most from those imperfect experiences and realize that you can handle a lot more than you think you can.

Describe your most rewarding teaching experience/student as a snowboard instructor?

Besides the satisfaction that you feel with yourself, the most rewarding part of being an Adaptive instructor is hands down seeing your students so happy.  Many of the students at Adaptive don’t have the chance to go outside and just play.  Many of them wait all year to come here and ski or snowboard for the day and to share the experience of finally getting outside and accomplishing a day of snowboarding is priceless.  When a non-verbal student can do nothing but smile, everything is worth it.

Describe your most challenging teaching experience/student as a kayaking/canoeing instructor?

Kayaking and canoeing this past summer was a brand new experience for me.   To control a canoe when your student is doing everything they can to push it in the opposite direction is quite a challenge, but definitely makes you a lot stronger.  Some summer students aren’t the most comfortable with the water so you need to be understanding about how they feel and try your best to make their experience a positive one.

Describe your most rewarding teaching experience/student as a kayaking/canoeing instructor?

My most rewarding experience as a kayak/canoe instructor would have to be when my student wouldn’t say two words to anyone in the morning and was very hesitant to go out on even the biggest of the canoes.  The morning was all about getting used to the lake and paddling was more an idea than a reality for him.  By the end of the day we had switched from the canoe to a kayak and he was paddling me around the whole lake.  When you see people being so happy about what they have accomplished, there is nothing more rewarding than to know that you were apart of that.

Is there anything from your ASF experience that has helped you with your life outside of ASF?

I have been able to take everything that I have done at Adaptive and translate it into useful tools in my life outside of the program.  My ASF experience was all about learning to adapt and to adjust, to be ready for the unexpected and to trust myself to be able to react when it happened.  I learned a great amount about working with disabilities, I have improved my own skills both on the snow and on the water, and I have met the most amazing people I could have ever hoped to meet.  I feel selfish to have taken away so much from my involvement with ASF when giving to others is what the program is all about.  Without a doubt, I can say that volunteering for ASF was the best decision I have ever made.