by Tomi Thompson
Photography by Justin Eiler
At some point in most athletes’ careers, obstacles arise that leave them with the task of finding a way to take it on.
Some obstacles are smaller and easy to tackle, and some are beyond what most people can imagine. When facing an obstacle, some make the choice to rise up and overcome, and some who think they can’t make it, turn and retreat.
Through overcoming obstacles he didn’t have a choice but to conquer, Ricky Reep has taken an approach to being involved in athletics that is all his own.
After suffering a traumatic injury as a two year old, the Barnesville, MN native lost partial motor skills in his right arm and suffered other injuries that left him unable to play contact sports. For most people, involvement in athletics might have been nothing more than a thought.
However, Reep has proven to everyone who has met him, he isn’t most people. Being faced with a disability didn’t stop him from joining in and finding his niche in Trojan athletics.
“Everything that he does, no one’s really surprised about, because that’s just Ricky being Ricky,” Barnesville head golf coach Matt Askegaard said.
Reep’s passion for sports started early in life. Growing up just blocks away from the golf course outside of Barnesville, Reep has always been close to the sport. Reep remembers being young when he picked up a club and took his first swing. He started golfing competitively as a 7th grader on the junior high team, and this past season was the junior’s first year golfing as a part of the varsity program.
For those that know Reep, watching him golf isn’t unusual, but Reep thinks the question “How can he swing a club?” crosses the minds of people seeing him golf for the first time.
Since Reep can’t use his right arm to swing, he’s learned to golf using only his left arm. Reep says that driving is definitely his strong point, but golf isn’t something that comes easy. “It sometimes can be hard, it all depends on the day.”
Askegaard said the first time he took Reep to compete at a varsity meet, he was nervous. But Reep’s performance proved to others that he’s earned his spot golfing at a varsity level.
“As a golfer, they’re surprised with what he can do and how well he does it. He does shoot very well,” Askegaard stated.
Askegaard notes that Reep steps onto the course with the intention to do his best. “He is a competitor, so he does show that on the golf course.”
Reep’s one arm approach to golf is unique, but coaches and other athletes agree, what really makes him different is his passion to be a part of the team, and to motivate others around him.
“He’s probably more generous and outgoing than most. He’s just a generous, genuine person that would be willing to give the shirt off his back,” Askegaard said.
His pleasant and hardworking disposition also makes Reep a strong manager for the varsity football and wrestling teams.
Head football coach and high school principal Bryan Strand asked Reep to join the football program as a manager when Reep was an 8th grader.
Strand said Reep is a self-motivator and doesn’t need extra direction to successfully accomplish tasks. “He does things without being told, he sets up stuff without being told.”
Strand believes Reep’s spirit brings an extra spark to practice and games. “He’s always high fiving. He’s always in a good mood.”
Strand says Reep wholeheartedly embraces his role as manager and being part of the team. “He can high five, he jumps up and he celebrates, he experiences the highs and lows with the team,” Strand continued, “If he had his way he’d be playing catch the entire time, throw the ball as far as he can and catch the ball with one hand. When we kick, Ricky is always the one that’s in the end zone catching the ball, trying to catch it with one arm.”
According to Strand, Reep’s ability to be a caring manager comes naturally. “He’s got a heart of gold, he’ll do anything for anybody. He cares, and that’s what makes him a good manager.”
Head wrestling Coach Art Meyer says Ricky goes above and beyond for the team and is always willing and excited to help with everything. From cleaning mats, to towel tapping at tournaments, Ricky values his part in the program’s success.
“He’s an awesome kid with a big heart, always willing to help,” Meyer noted, “He is caring and a great friend to all the wrestlers and coaches.”
Barnesville Senior quarterback Ethan Ishaug says Reep is always the first one to get the football team excited about an upcoming game. “Even like a week before he’s saying, ‘Next Friday, we’re going to win, we’re going to do this.’ He motivates us in school, at practice and at games.”
Reep says he likes to keep the teams spirits up, “I tell my friends on the football team that we’re going to make this.”
Ishaug says Reep’s uplifting comments and commitment to the team make him not only a great manager, but someone that the athletes appreciate being a part of the program.
“He’s a fun kid to be around because he’s always so happy, and he makes others happy around him,” Ishaug said. “He loves being out there. He respects us, so he does pretty much whatever we need him to, and we respect him as well.”
Even when faced with a disability that doesn’t let Reep play sports the same way that others do, his passion for participating in athletics is something few can match. “It’s nice to be with the team on the field and cheering them on,” Reep said.
Through coaching and teaching, Askegaard has gotten to know Reep well, and believes Reep is a guy that leaves a lasting impression on those he meets. “He’s special, just a neat kid. Very genuine, very outgoing, always positive,” Askegaard noted.
Reep points to his love of sports as a reason for his positivity. “It keeps me in a good mood,” he says.
Askegaard believes that having a disability doesn’t stand in the way of Reep’s contagiously good outlook on life and willingness to help others. “Just because he has a physical disability, that doesn’t hold him back from being successful at golf and all of the other things that he does in his life,” Askegaard said.
Reep’s attitude about how to treat others is simple, and serves as a lesson to those around him. “I try to be really nice to people,” he says.
Strand said the outstanding qualities that Reep has exhibited through athletics prove that having a climb-and-conquer mentality and remaining positive is the key to overcoming obstacles, rather than to let them be defeating.
Concluding his thoughts on Ricky, Strand says “He knows that he’s different, but the thing is, he doesn’t care. He’s going to do what he has to do, he’s not worried about what anybody else thinks, and he’s just out to have a good time and make others happy.”