For Jacob Kohler, playing high school sports has been a life changing experience.
“Nothing else makes me more happy than playing football,” Kohler told 7 Eyewitness News.
The teen who lives with autism persevered after a rocky start to high school. He struggled with making friends and anxiety.
Jacob gave cross-country a try his sophomore year then made the switch to football junior year. Both Jacob and his mom Lisa agree, joining the Orchard Park football team seemed to offer the teen the confidence boost he needed.
“It just was everything to him it just took off,” Lisa Kohler said. “It made him stronger and healthier and a better person all around.”
In his fourth year of high school, Jacob continued to play. Because of difficulties he experienced early on, he’ll be spending a fifth year in high school, but this year he may be watching his team from the stands.
The reason – he’s been ruled ineligible by Section VI athletics.
“It’s not whether you played that particular sport or not, it is from the date of entry into 9th grade. You have four years of participation,” Timm Slade told 7 Eyewitness News.
Slade is the executive director of the governing body of athletics in Western New York. Slade says each year a handful of families request an extension to their student’s eligibility.
Lisa says because of her son’s autism he wasn’t ready physically or mentally to play sports his freshman year.
Section VI has denied the teen from playing his 5th year, but his parents have appealed to the State Education Commissioner.
The Kohlers have even garnered the support of State Senator Tim Kennedy. Both parties are hoping the waiver is expedited so Jacob can hit the field with his teammates for their first game.