Whether it’s in the classroom, on the sports field or in the ocean, Isaiah Bird is making waves.
Isaiah, who was born without legs, plays football, soccer, runs track, swims, surfs and skateboards. But the wrestling mat is where the 9-year-old from Long Beach, New York, has become the one to beat. In his fifth year on the wrestling team, Isaiah went 27-12.
“I just keep going on,” he said. “[I say:] ‘I can do this. There’s no excuses. I can do this.’ And I just do it. And I keep practicing and practicing. If I, one day I get pinned. … I go back to practicing and practicing and I get better and better and better.”
The rising fifth-grader has a supportive cheering section behind him made up of his mother, Bernadette Hopton; his friends and teammates; and his coach, Miguel Rodriguez. Isaiah said Rodriguez helped him a lot, giving him the fight to keep pushing.
“He says, ‘No matter what, you still can do all these things the other kids can do.’ And he says, ‘There’s no excuses. No matter what, you keep doing it. No matter what. Just do your thing. Have fun. That’s the most important thing,'” Isaiah said.
Rodriguez took Isaiah under his wing when the 9-year-old was in kindergarten. Since then, Rodriguez has functioned as both Isaiah’s coach and teacher assistant, accompanying him to every class and after-school.
Rodriguez said he got emails, phone calls and videos daily from adults and children around the U.S. saying that they’d been inspired after watching videos of Isaiah wrestling.
“He just gets it done. I think we complain a lot about everything in life. And we don’t know how easy we have it. Life is not always fair, but he doesn’t complain about it,” Rodriguez said.
He said that Isaiah was “one of the biggest gifts” in his life.
“I hope for him to follow his dreams. I hope for him to never change his personality and the way he is because he has an amazing, amazing personality. … He has no idea what changes he’s making in other people,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully one day he can be a motivational speaker. Maybe he can, you know, travel the world and just show people that, you know what, he did it and that they can do it, too.”