Jeff Fogel is an inspiration to many, but to him, he’s just doing what he loves – coaching basketball. Fogel was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, about three years ago.
According to the ALS Association’s website, ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. It’s a terrible disease that limits movement and speech and gradually breaks down the body. For most people, this diagnosis would ruin their lives, but Fogel refuses to let the disease control him. He is the assistant coach for the Mo Steel Girls’ basketball team and regularly gives back to his community in Miami.
Mo Steel Girls traveled to the AAU Spring Fling I this past weekend to compete in their first spring event. They had never attended a spring event before but they wanted to see how they matched up against the competition. For their first time here, they did pretty well, making it all the way to the semi-finals, but they ended up dropping that game to Blue Star Florida.
“I think it’s just a great experience overall for the girls to come together and bond with each other,” Fogel said. “To me it’s not all about the winning and losing, it’s about the bonding.”
Fogel added how incredible the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex is and thinks it was important that his team compete on this type of stage. Because of his disease, Fogel needs a caretaker with him at these events. The Amateur Athletic Union decided that Fogel’s caretaker shouldn't have to worry about paying for entry into the tournament.
When Fogel found out that his caretaker wasn’t going to have to pay entry into the event, he was blown away.
“That was awesome,” he said. “I think that they really go out of their way to make everybody happy and it’s important.”
Coaching a basketball team is no easy task and for someone with such a terrible disease, it’s hard to imagine how and why he continues to coach instead of focusing on his health. His answer is simple.
“It’s my medication,” Fogel explained.
Thank you to the Mo Steel Girls 6th Grade team for competing at our event and good luck to Jeff Fogel in all of his future endeavors.
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