Two-sport athlete overcomes difficulties and shows he belongs on the field

November 20, 2019 — by Shama Gupta

At age 5, junior Darwin Chow was diagnosed with learning disabilities and issues affecting his hand-eye coordination and general motor skills. 

Even so, Chow began playing soccer and baseball at age 8  — and struggled.  

 “I always got tired really quick,” he said. “I had trouble seeing the ball, and a lot of things were hard. I still remember back in PE, I would get 20-minute mile times.”

Prior to middle school, he quit playing sports because of the difficulties.

But through attending countless hours of physical therapy, a program he graduated from during his freshman year, Chow built enough confidence in himself to get back onto the field.

Today, Chow plays varsity football and runs track for the school’s teams, but he needed multiple extra practices and physical therapy sessions to get where he is today. Above all, though, Chow credits his coaches and the friendly environment at the school as the reason for his increased confidence.

“The coaches would always include me in at least a few special plays, and it just really meant a lot to me because I wasn’t very good my freshman year,” he said about the JV football coaches. Between the support of coaches and his teammates, Chow feels that he wouldn’t have been able to improve this drastically without them.

Defensive coordinator Bret Yielding, who oversees Chow’s practices and games, said that Chow is an integral part of the team’s play on the field and in his spirit. 

“Like a lot of kids, being a part of something is good for him,” Yielding said. “I think being a part of football really helps him; it’s a big part of his identity.” 

Receiver junior Fabian Alvarado called him the the hype man of the team. “He’s always willing to step up and hype people up before the games,” Alvarado said. “He has a great work ethic and has never let the team down.”

As a football player, Chow has attended intensive offseason training sessions in hopes of becoming the best defensive end that he can be. 

“We can see the improvement in him every day,” said Yielding. “He’s worked really hard to overcome his learning difference, which is his special awareness, and it’s much better now than it used to be.”

Yielding is happy that Chow found football and said that “football has been good for him, just as he’s been good for football.” 

As for track and field, Chow feels like it is his best bet for a sport that he can excel in, as it doesn’t require excessive motor skills. “I guess that’s why I started doing track,” he said, “because there is no ball in it.” 

As a 100- and 200-meter sprinter as well as a long jumper, he hopes to improve his running form and start. 

With intense practice and an optimistic mindset, Chow has been able to make the ultimate comeback, proving to himself he deserves the progress he was able to make. 

“When I first started track, I could barely run in a straight line,” he said. “By the end of my freshman year I could run the 400. So yeah, I am proud of myself.”

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At UC Berkeley, PhD student Abrar Abidi and research assistant Yvonne Hao have embarked on a goal of creating hand sanitizer for the Bay Area's most vulnerable populations, including the homeless and the incarcerated. Their hand sanitizer includes glycerol mixed with other products, in accordance with a formula from the World Health Organization. So far, they are producing 120 hundreds of gallons of sanitizer each week. Photo courtesy of Roxanne Makasdjian with UC Berkeley.

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