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Lacrosse helps teenager with autism beat the odds, inspire others

15YO playing as team goalie
Posted at 10:14 PM, Nov 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-24 23:26:24-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Grace Armenia isn’t like teenage girls her age. She isn’t worried about finding a boyfriend or getting her learners permit. But, she is searching for happiness and to be a part of something special.

In July, Grace’s family says a coach for a local lacrosse team saw her out getting a lacrosse lesson and asked if Grace wanted to be the team’s goalie.

Robert and Ericka Armenia thought it was a good idea and they’d give it a shot.

“I knew she was tough and I knew she could handle that,” Robert Armenia said. 

The family says the coach told them she might play as goalie sometime next year, depending on how well she did. Weeks later Grace was off the bench and in the game and faced with making her first big play, blocking a goal.

“She went in there and she was a champ,” Ericka Armenia said. “The stick was coming up and coming at her and she blocked it. The feeling was just everything, gratefulness, excitement. Just to see her face her confidence and to see her light up knowing she did something good. It’s made her feel part of a team.”

Her coach Kevin “Smiley” Losier says since he started training Grace in July she has developed an unbelievable grasp for the game.

“You can tell now,” Losier said. “She gets low, moves aggressive to the ball. I’ve seen a huge difference from where she started in July. Anyone can play sports…to see what she’s done anyone can do it. She loves it she gets a big smile on her face she gets pumped up.”

The season for the Yellow Jackets at Shooters Lacrosse is over for the year. But, Grace will be back out on the pitch when the season starts up again in the Spring.

And for parents of children with special needs, the Armenia family has this message.

“Never be afraid to open up those challenges to those children they have so many gifts, gifts that we need to see that are amazing and incredible that can inspire others as well but you definitely have to give them a chance,” Ericka Armenia said.