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Beating the Odds: Boy with cerebral palsy manages girls basketball team

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HOLLAND, Mich. — He may be the smallest one on the basketball court, but he has the loudest cheers.

Eight-year-old Jake Gainey has cerebral palsy and limited sight. Fox 17 first featured Jake in January, now he's beating the odds as a team manager.

Gainey spends his afternoons rolling up and down the hardwood at Holland East Elementary. He's the manager for the girls basketball team at Holland Middle School.

"He even has a t-shirt, that's how official it is," said Maria Rocha, seventh grader on the basketball team.

He's close friends with the girls, but don't let that fool you. He works them hard.

"Catch up! Ms. Ricketts blow your whistle!" yells Gainey.

"He's just our encouraging link to our team," said coach Trina Ricketts.

What Gainey lacks in sight and mobility, he makes up for with heart and encouragement.

"The girls have been doing good," said Gainey.

"He'll tell us to hustle up out there, go faster, pay attention to the ball and to keep our heads up," said eighth grader Madeline Lepard.

"It's nice having this fun spirit with you throughout the games and practices," said seventh grader Maria Rocha. "He'll be on the sidelines going, 'Go Girls! Go Maria!'. It's awesome."

Jake is normally focused, but like any 8-year-old he can get distracted.

"Being manager is my favorite thing," said Gainey. "But is the weight room a real room?"

"He has so much to teach everybody," said Ricketts. "He touches everyone he comes in contact with. He teaches all of us something about life and Jake shows the girls that at practice."

Sometimes Gainey gets in on the action himself in between drills.

"I love being the manager," said Gainey.

Most importantly, Jake is the last piece of the puzzle making their team complete.

"I think the girls just look at him and how happy he is all of the time," said Ricketts. "He just lifts them up and they want to do well for him. He is such a great kid."

Gainey attends every practice and game and gives the girls pep talks and pointers after practice and at half time.

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