8B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - November 3, 2003
A birth defect hasn't slowed Judy Coffman on or off the soccer field
By Jake Rosenwasser
Daily Sports Writer
udy Coffman of the women's soccer
team loves to talk, and usually she
speaks the truth. Occasionally,
though, Judy likes to give reporters a
story to chew on.
"Sometimes I tell them my hand got
bitten off by a shark," Coffman said.
"They're like, 'No way.' They ask if it was
bloody, and I just love to play along. I'm
like, It was spraying out blood every-
where, and I almost passed out.' They
really go for it."
Coffman's fable is intriguing, to say the
least, but what really happened to the
freshman's hand? What occurred is
nowhere near as exciting as the shark
story. Coffman was just born with a
birth defect - her left arm stops at her
Conventional thinking would lead Coff-
man to soccer and only soccer in the
athletic world, but she and her father
would not let her missing hand limit her
athletic prowess. When she was younger,
Coffman also played basketball and ten-
nis while growing up in San Jose, Calif.
Basketball? Tennis? How in the world
were these feats possible with just one
"When you're born like that, you find
different ways to work around it," Coff-
man said. "With a lot of work, my dad
helped me to learn how to serve a tennis
ball with my left arm."
Learning to serve a tennis ball was not
the only thing Coffman conquered.
"It took me a year longer than everyone
else to learn to tie my shoe," Coffman
said. "Also, my mom did my hair until I
was 12, and it took me two years to
learn to put my hair into a pony tail.
"Learning how to do things while grow-
ing up took a lot of time, but if you have
an accident (in the middle of your life)
it's so much harder to adapt to some-
thing you're not used to."
Coffman was such a good athlete at a
younger age that she had to make a
tough decision at the age of 13. She was
playing on the California state teams for
both tennis and soccer and like someone
trying to hold down two jobs, Coffman
eventually ran out of time.
"I chose soccer because it's a team
sport and I felt I could meet more
friends," she said.
More recently, after Coffman had
proven that soccer and tennis were well
within her grasp, Coffman challenged
herself again - the California girl
learned to surf.
"I didn't want her to do it," her father,
Doug Coffman, said. "I was afraid for her
safety after she was knocked off the
Her father was reluctant, but Judy was
as persistent as a 30-year-old minor
league baseball player.
"People doubted that I could surf
because you have to paddle with two
hands. I gave it a shot and at first, it was
the most frustrating thing ever. But I
kept trying, and now I know how to do
Where did all this inspiration come
from? How was she able to look past her
arm and give the extra effort needed to
achieve just about anything?
While growing up, Coffman was aware
of what Jim Abbott was accomplishing in
Major League Baseball, and she was
especially impressed because Abbott was
a pitcher. To field the pitcher's position
with one hand was as miraculous as a
midget dunking a
Coffman was also
"I think it's so cool
that he was a Wolver-
ine. Maybe someone
else will consider
Michigan because of
showed Judy a video
of Pete Gray, a one-
armed Major League
ballplayer in the
1940s. Gray played
the outfield and }
even batted with
just one arm.
"We showed her
the video," her
father said. "It
showed her that
anything was pos-
sible, but I think it's more amazing that
she played tennis than soccer."
Abbott and Gray gave hope to Coffman
growing up, and she aspires to be as
inspirational to others. After committing
to Michigan last year, Coffman traveled
to Santa Clara, Calif., to watch the
Wolverines compete. She was dressed as
if she had won a $1000 gift certificate to
the M-Den when she met a spectator
with a similar plight.
"There was a little girl sitting in front of
us, and she had no hands," Coffman
said. "She was watching the game, and I
introduced myself and let her know that
anything was possible. She's my inspira-
tion. I don't know if I'm
hers, but I hope I can " .e
be." My friends
Coffman had difficulty got mad a
adjusting to college life wearing (a I
at first. But now she's They said I h
Before the season, the to be self-CO
soccer team embarked it was easy
on a canoe trip that was say becauset
supposed to bring its heading t
members closer togeth-
er. Coffman has many new sc
skills one might not
expect her to have, but canoeing is not
one of them.
"It was the hardest thing ever," Coff-
man said. "Brenna (Mulholland) was in
the back of my canoe, and she had to
row both sides. She hated it because she
was working for both of us."
Despite the canoeing debacle, Coffman
and Mulholland have become good
friends. Coach Debbie Rademacher
matched the two to be roommates for the
year, and both freshmen feel like the
pairing was a huge success. Rademacher
has a history of matching incoming
"By the time the freshmen get here, I
think I know them pretty well,"
Rademacher said. "Judy and Brenna
came from the same kind of background
- both have a couple of sisters. You
usually think of family when matching
While living together, the girls share
tons of laughs. Mulholland likes to tell
how she has diagnosed Coffman with
"The other day there were over 50 lady-
bugs in our room, and Judy looked like
she might have an anxiety attack," Mul-
holland said. "So I had to save the day
and get rid of them all. Now I just throw
bugs at her to make her cry a little."
As for her soccer, Coffman is receiving
significant playing time, especially for a
freshman. The left mid-
fielder has a valuable
* . skill that is rare in the
"She's a left-footer and
she can hit a left-footed
cross," Rademacher said.
"There aren't many girls
who can do that at this
Coffman tallied her first
point against Iowa State
I, in the team's sixth game
a'of the year. She raced
Sdownthe left flank and
crossed the ball to senior
Stephanie Chavez, who
netted the Wolverines'
fourth goal of the game
and secured Michigan's
, first victory.
"My first assist was excit-
ing," Coffman said. "But I'd
love to score a goal pretty
Even in Ann Arbor, hun-
dreds of miles away from
San Jose, Coffman has had plenty of
support from her family. Her parents
have made it out to almost half of the
Wolverines' games this season.
"It feels great to see her play," her
father said. "It was always a dream of
Throughout most of her life, Coffman
has felt totally comfortable with herself
and the way she was born. If given the
' opportunity to change anything, she
would not change her arm.
"I'm thankful it formed like that
because it's who I am," Coffman said.
"Why would you change who you are?"
Although Coffman feels
California this way now, there was
n aa time not so long ago
it me for when she became a little
ake hand). anxious about her
id no reason appearance.
"Back in California, I
nscious, but was 'Little Coffman,' so
for them to teachers and kids kind of
they weren't knew me," Coffman said.
a brand "But coming to Michigan, I
0 a rand was really scared because
hool." I didn't know anyone. Last
winter I got really self-con-
scious about my arm. It was more of a
social thing. I wondered what guys
would think, and I was really nervous
about meeting new people."
Coffman went to a doctor and got a
fake hand that she could put on which
looked exactly like her other hand.
"My friends in California got mad at
me for wearing it," Coffman said. "They
said I had no reason to be self-con-
scious, but it was easy for them to say
because they weren't heading to a brand
"So I brought the hand with all my
other stuff when I came out to school,
but I haven't worn it yet. At this liberal
school, if people don't think I'm normal
just because of the way I look, then
that's their fault. I'm not going to say I'm
always confident about my hand, but
that is who I am. I think I'm just going to
send (the fake hand) back."
Are you ready for some foosball?
By Melanie Kebler
Daily Sports Writer
It's well known that the Michigan women's soccer play-
ers know how to put it all on the line, give 110 percent
and get a win out on the field. But could that effort and
talent be showcased when teammates clashed over a foos-
ball table at the Michigan Union? Last Thursday night,
the world found out. GAE 1
Senior goalkeeper Suzie Grech
teamed up with freshman defender 4
Lindsay Cottrell against the fresh-B E
man trio of goalkeeper Megan Tuura GnME 2
and defender/midfielders Brenna
Mulholland and Katelin Spencer in
an epic foosball match initially T
designed to settle the score between GMw 3
Grech and Tuura.
The two goalies have split time on"
the field all season, each usually uA
playing one half of a game. Both
have had successful seasons - Grech got her 25th career
shutout this year against Minnesota, and Tuura made a
career high eight-saves in Michigan's upset of Notre
rl--5.. _1_ _41_4- _11 r1- ,---+nA+_c
The duo made a crucial change between the first two
games when Grech moved from defense to offense to take
charge of the offense.
"When Suzie switched from defense to offense, she
posed a terrific threat that obviously cost us the last two
games," Tuura said about the switch. "She took some
powerful shots that were impossible to defend."
Grech said the decision to switch was "a team
"(We knew that) Lindsay was a little more experienced
in foosball and she would be a better defender, plus I can
pull out the attacking moves when necessary," Grech said.
"Once that switch occurred, the game was over for them."
After a quick 5-2 loss in the second game, Spencer
subbed in for Mulholland on the other side of the table,
but it was just too little, too late.
"It's tough to defend such an amazing forward," Tuura
said. "It started off a little slow with Katelin, but we got
into a rhythm and scored two goals before Suzie knocked
in the game-winner."
Grech and Cottrell were victorious by a score of 5-3 in
the third game, and took the match two games to one.
Grech cited experience as one of the factors in the impor-
tant turning moment in the match.
From left: Katelin Spencer, Megan Tuura, Brenna Mulholland, Suzie Grech and Lindsay Cottrell.
The red team's celebration over its first-game victory (left) didn't last long. The blue team swiftly recovered and took the
next two games, after which Cottrell let out an emphatic "In your face!" (right).