Northwest Christian’s Kohner grows on soccer field with cerebral palsy

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Northwest Christian senior Gavin Kohner is team's second-leading scorer. Photo by Wendy Johnson

When he gets on the soccer field and runs freely, sprinting past defenders, finding the back of the net for a goal, it’s another win over cerebral palsy for Gavin Kohner.

The Phoenix Northwest Christian senior forward/midfielder, 18, diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was a year old and living with braces until he was 12, learned to adjust every step of the way to embrace what he has now.

He signed his college national letter of intent this week with Clemson to play on its Paralympic soccer team, which was a result of his being a part of the U.S. Paralympic team since he was 15.

He is Northwest Christian’s second-leading scorer, and, after sitting out Tuesday’s 3A first-round game, he’ll be able to return to the field for Saturday’s 2 p.m., state quarterfinal game at home against Phoenix Country Day.

“My freshman year is when I really picked it up,” he said. “I had a lot more confidence in myself. I started playing club again. When I realized I was doing good with that, that’s when my confidence really picked up.”

Gavin Kohner, who has cerebral palsy, earned a scholarship to Clemson to play on its Paralympic soccer team. Photo by Richard Obert

But it was a long, winding haul to find a way to free himself from the restrictions that came with cerebral palsy.

Tim Kohner knew something was wrong with his oldest son after he was born when he couldn’t hold his head up.

When Gavin began crawling, he could only use one arm.

Tim and his wife Jenna took Gavin to a neurologist, who diagnosed him with cerebral palsy.

“We threw everything at the wall to see what sticks,” Tim said.

They tried everything. The did Botox therapy to reduce muscle spastics. When he was 10, they took him to Germany for stem cell therapy. That usually is for more severe cases.

“Gavin is blessed to that he’s close to not having it, but he has it enough to where it affects him athletically,” Tim said. “We wanted to give him something that would help him athletically. That didn’t really help too much.”

Then, when he was in the seventh grade, Gavin went to Boston Children’s Hospital to see what kind of surgeries he would need to elongate the muscles so that he wouldn’t have to walk without a brace.





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