Before heading to soccer practice, Nathan Baker shared some life experiences and a few words to live by: “Believe in yourself.”

In middle school, to get a Boy Scout badge, Nathan participated in a study. The medical professionals were so impressed by his endurance on the treadmill, they asked if he’d try out for middle school track team.

He did not get a response from the coaches, says Nathan, a UNCG sophomore recreation and parks management major who has cerebral palsy. But in ninth grade, the high school cross country coach, Mike Miragliuolo, said Yes. He’d compete when he could run 5 kilometers.

At first he tended to fall, but he improved. His first race, his time was 33:55. By the time he graduated, it was 23:40. “About a 10 minute drop,” he says.

Nathan advocates exercise for those with special needs. “Exercise is good for everyone. It makes them feel good about themselves,” he explains.

His exercise this year? All that comes with being manager for the men’s soccer team and the softball team. Sometimes that involves running, as he chases down balls.

He also ran in the campus’ MS 5K, with his friend former Spartans Cross Country runner Andy Clyne.

Exercise is good for everyone. It makes them feel good about themselves.

He was pleased with his time. “If you ask Andy Clyne, he will tell you I took off like lightning near the end of the race and finished third in my age group – and that’s no joke. I had an awesome time that day.”

Nathan loves athletics. “My dream jobs are to be a college coach for soccer or basketball and to be an ESPN network employee,” he says. In the fall, he’ll again be manager for Coach Maullin’s men’s soccer team, which last year took the SoCon regular season title. Maullin tells of first meeting him.

Maullin asked the then-freshman what he could offer the team. He could keep stats, he replied. The coach explained they had that covered. What else?

“Coach Maullin, I can inspire.”

Maullin’s response? “You’ll start tomorrow.”

Other sports aspirations? One, Nathan says. “I hope that Wes Miller will make me one of the men’s basketball managers.”

Last fall, as he talked about the soccer team’s season, he cited an old Dean Smith saying: “Play hard, play together, play smart.” If you do, good things might happen, he explained.

By Mike Harris, University Relations
Photography by Chris English, University Relations