Meijer State Games of Michigan Athlete Spotlight:

Travis Sutherlund, Ice Hockey

by: Kenneth DeGraaf

At 12-years old, Travis Sutherlund already has plenty of experience when it comes to beating obstacles. Over his lifetime, Travis has been diagnosed with diabetes, Celiac Disease, and Asperger’s Syndrome. Yet, here he is, fresh off making his Ice Hockey team for the 2015 Meijer State Games of Michigan.
Ice Hockey started at a young age for Travis, who started his path to the rink at the age of 7. “I was at my friends house that lives on a lake,” Travis said. “The neighbor had skates for me to borrow, so I tried skating on the lake rink, and I loved it. The next year, I started playing hockey.” Not only did Travis start playing hockey, but he ended up being pretty good at. Over his short career, Travis has already been awarded a Hat Trick Patch, multiple Scholastic Stars, and his fair share of tournament medals.  
Each obstacle Travis faces during his Ice Hockey career has proved challenging, but he has faced all of them head on. The Celiac Disease Travis has forces him to eat Gluten Free, which is difficult for him at team dinners as he often needs to eat differently his teammates. Asperger’s syndrome has been just as difficult to overcome, often providing Travis difficulty of where to play on the ice.
“If he’s right wing, he had to learn that it was ok to cross over center ice when necessary,” Julie, Travis’s Mom, explained. “He still has some days that his brain is ‘overloaded’, and he has a hard time staying focused on the ice. He has a hard time looking the coach in eye, but always hears everything he has to say. He has made some great friends playing hockey. He is even starting to joke around in the locker room without taking everything so literally.”
Despite the obstacles, Travis continues to excel at his sport. When it comes to hockey, Travis takes tremendous pride in his stick handling and shooting abilities. When asked what everyone should know about handling and shooting, Travis had plenty of feedback. Among these secrets to success, Travis was big on being simple with the stick. “Do not try to be fancy with your stick,” Travis enlightened. “Do not deek/fake more than 2 players in a row.” Travis also talked about the importance of shooting blocker side of the goalie, preventing kicking up the foot on shot attempts, not shooting from the corner, and the significance of shooting from the heel of your stick and not the toe.
Diabetes is another challenge Travis deals with on an everyday basis. He was diagnosed with diabetes in August of 2014, which has only added to the difficulties Travis faced with Celiac and Asperger’s. “He has an insulin pump that he has to take off during games,” Julie described. “If he feels low during a game or a practice he drinks a juice box, or has fruit snacks for instant sugar.”
Without a doubt, the passion and determination Travis displays on and off the ice is something we can all learn from. “Competitive sports are difficult for any child,” Julie said of her son. “It is truly a rarity that he still wants to play and enjoys playing a team sport.” In the future, Travis hopes to play hockey at both the high school and collegiate level. He also has an interest in playing high school lacrosse. Fresh off making the Ice Hockey roster for the Meijer State Games of Michigan, Travis is living proof that no matter what obstacles you face there is no reason why you cannot live out your dream. 
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event(s) that welcome athletes regardless of age or ability level. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living.
In August 2017, the Meijer State Games of Michigan will play host to the
2017 State Games of America.
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