Having CF hasn’t stopped 23 year old New Yorker Teena Mobley from excelling at high level sport. She has competed in track and field (main events being long jump and sprints) at various levels up until college as well as varsity basketball up until high school. Amongst her many achievements, she has been ranked 3rd for long jump in 2014 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (an association that covers the entire USA). Here, we chat about how she manages to balance cystic fibrosis with being a high achieving athlete and having a busy student life.
Martin) Becoming an athlete is something that most people assume isn’t possible for a person with CF. When you were diagnosed at age 9, after years of doctors assuming you had asthma, did you think it wouldn’t be possible to pursue your dream? How have you managed to overcome the assumptions about people with CF not being able to compete at a high level in competitive sports?
Teena) When I first found out that I had Cystic Fibrosis and hearing that “our capabilities are limited”, I knew from the start that I did not want to let this illness define who I was. I loved sports and didn’t want anything to take that love away I had for both track and basketball. I managed to overcome the assumptions about people with CF and competing at a D1 level by fixing my mentality and knowing that anything is possible. It took a lot of time and heart for me to not give up on finishing my track career. I knew I had to work a little harder than others and keep a positive mindset. Without doing so I feel like I wouldn’t have met my full potential. Regardless of any illness or anything else a person may have, I believe that if you have a dream and want to pursue that dream, then just go for it! Give it all you’ve got and if things do not work out the way you wanted it to then at least you can say you tried and took that chance. I didn’t want to have in the back of my head “what if” but instead “I was able to overcome what people thought want possible”.
M) When you were growing up, how important were your parents in nurturing your talent? What advice would you give to parents of children with CF who want to compete at a high level in sports?
T) Growing up my parents knew that I loved sports. They knew that track was something I wanted to do all throughout college. Especially competing at a D1 level. My advice would be to not to give up even when things get hard. You will never know how far you could go or reach your full potential until you first take that chance. We are all great and God gave us all a gift, so why not use that gift. Key Word “gave”. You don’t just throw away a gift that someone gives you. Use it! And always remember “Hard work beats talent, when talent fails to work hard”.
M) Fast forward to your time at university. Fitting in studying, sport and socialising is a tough task for anyone. How did you fit your healthcare requirements in alongside that? Did you ever have to sacrifice any activities to fit the rest in?
T) It was very tough fitting in my healthcare routine with studying, work, athletics and social life. Growing up I had to cope with living with Cystic Fibrosis and adjusting to each new environment setting I was put in. At first no one knew I had this illness because I masked it in public but eventually came out to share my story. Where there are ears there is always a voice that needs to be heard, so why not let it be your story to help inspire others. I had to sacrifice most of my social life (hanging out, partying, and other fun activities) to maintain my health and get enough sleep. Throughout college I had a good time but was extremely focused on my work and maintaining good grades. Eventually it wasn’t much of a big deal to miss a party or hanging out with friends.
M) How important have your friends, teammates and coaches been as a support network for you? What advice would you give to the friends, teammates and coaches of athletes with CF so that they can best help?
T) My friends, teammates and coaches have been a HUGE support system as well as my family and doctors. I can’t thank them enough. I really want to thank the man above (GOD) for all that he has done in my life with blessing me through living with this illness. The first piece of advice I would give is that this illness is invisible. You never know what a person goes through in their life. I would also say to keep being supportive and encouraging because it matters the most and helps keep us going. There are some days that are better than the others, so just having that support plays a huge part.
M) How important are rest days for you? Do you find you need more rest days than your fellow athletes who don’t have CF?
T) Rest days are extremelyyyyy important! Growing up I have always been out and about. I never really liked staying in my room all day but instead I liked going to events and just take the time out to enjoy life. Although rest days a imperative, I will also say enjoying life and its moments are important too.
M) Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had a cold during a big event, and if so how did you manage? Do you take extra precautions to make sure you don’t catch bugs?
T) Yes, at the time I was really sick and lost 15 pounds. I was out of practice for a few weeks until I got better. When I am sick, I do not hesitate to go to the doctors. I take very good care of myself.
M) Diet plays an important role in staying healthy with CF and also in staying fit as a sportsperson. What types of food do you try to eat and do you try to avoid?
T) As a cystic fibrosis track athlete, it was important for me to drink a lot of water and eat salty snacks. I also ate fattening food to help keep the weight on my body just in case I was to get sick, I would need that to help fight off any sickness I would have. At the same time, with being an athlete, I couldn’t eat as much junk food because it would affect my performance on the track. I ate a lot of protein and food that were beneficial to my body.
M) What do you eat before and after an event/training session to ensure maximum performance and recovery?
T) It would vary. I usually would have a chocolate protein shake or granola bar with me before and after my track meets. I try not to eat too heavy before my performance.
M) Do you take any extra supplements that help your body cope with the requirements of being an athlete with CF (e.g. protein, vitamins, etc)?
T) Yes, I would take my vitamins everyday.
M) Finally, do you have any other tips for people with CF looking to maximise their potential?
T) Tips I would suggest for people with CF that are looking to maximize their potential is to stay motivated. If you have something you’re passionate about, find out your “Why” and make it happen. Although the doctors say that our capabilities are fairly limited, I believe we can reach beyond what they say our “capabilities are”. Your only limit is you. What you think in your mind is a reflection of what happens in your life. Be that change, take risk, take care of yourself, and just be great!
A huge thank you to Teena for taking the time to share her expertise with us. You can find out more about Teena and follow her on her journey through Twitter at @teenamm12
*ALWAYS ENSURE YOU SPEAK WITH YOUR MEDICAL TEAM BEFORE MAKING ANY HEALTH RELATED CHANGES TO YOUR LIFESTYLE*