Thayer community invited to Bionic Project road race

Thayer community invited to Bionic Project road race

The Bionic Project, a Cambridge-based nonprofit whose mission is to “dismantle disability bias, build empathy, and foster connection through education, story, and sport,” paid a visit to Thayer Academy this winter as one workshop of the inaugural Tiger Unity Summit, a weeklong series of events and workshops across both divisions organized by Thayer’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging (DEIB) Office. Bionic Project educators spent that morning teaching Upper School students the rules of amputee soccer — one of the many forms of adaptive soccer — before playing with the students in two 7-on-7 games. 

And this spring, the Thayer community will see another benefit to that partnership. As a member of the Bionic Project school community, Thayer automatically receives a 15% discount promo code for those who wish to register for the Bionic 5K & 1Mile in Cambridge. The Bionic Mile will begin at 9 a.m. while the Bionic 5K will begin at 9:30 a.m.; both events start at 41 Church St. The Academy’s unique code is THAYER15.

As event organizers make clear on their website, both the Bionic Mile and Bionic 5K are for everyone — adaptive athletes, elite runners, and first-timers. The day is billed as “a race that celebrates technology, sport, and the human spirit.” 

If they make the April 28 race, many Upper School students will remember immersing themselves in the world of amputee soccer during that late February workshop thanks to the Bionic Project. 

“They did great,” Nico Calabria, a lead educator at the Bionic Project, said that day following the session. “This group had really good energy and buy-in.” 

During the workshop Calabria and fellow educator Jovan Booker spent roughly 10 minutes explaining the rules of the game — for example, all players must use forearm crutches, players in the field must use only one leg, players must not tap the ball with their crutches, and goalies can only use one arm — before demonstrating how to best maneuver with the crutches for speed and agility. Several times during the demonstration Calabria and Booker sped past volunteer defenders as if the students were standing still. 

“It’s super super physical,” Calabria told students beforehand. “I guarantee it.” However, Calabria, a three-time captain of the United States Amputee Soccer Team, also told them they’d have great fun doing it. 

“Anyone can play amputee soccer,” he said. “You just have to commit.” 

The 7-on-7 game started slowly as the players on each team got used to moving with the crutches. There was a constant temptation among players to tap the ball with a crutch or instinctively switch to the other leg. But after a few minutes, the players adjusted, the game sped up, and the competition did indeed become more intense. 

As stated previously, the amputee soccer workshop event was only one of several workshops taking place as part of the inaugural Tiger Unity Summit. The goal of the summit was to expand student understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging as it relates to each academic department and to allow faculty and staff the chance to facilitate a workshop that highlights their content area’s overlap with DEIB efforts at Thayer. 

“By exploring diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging through the lenses of different academic departments, the summit provided a crucial platform for our community to realize that DEIB intersects with various experiences and perspectives,” said DEIB Director Matt Ghiden. “It allowed us to understand that there are multiple entry points for engagement, ensuring that every member of our community had a way to participate. This event was not just about learning; it was about understanding, connecting, and supporting each other in our journey towards a more inclusive Thayer."

The adaptive sport of amputee soccer is seeing steady growth. Calabria himself founded the New England Amputee Soccer Team and serves as both a player and coach; the team proudly partners with the New England Revolution. 

The Bionic Project was founded in 2018. 

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