Teal Reynolds plays basketball with an unknown sight disability.
When you hear athletes talk about how they can feel the ebb and flow of a game, you can often chalk that up to hyperbole. An athlete, especially a basketball player, hones those senses through practicing a skill a thousand times over to where it becomes second nature to make that extra pass or perfect that jump shot.
But when Potomac Falls High School rising sophomore Teal Reynolds says she can feel the game, she's actually physically describing how she plays. In the 6th grade, Reynolds developed, as of now, an unknown eye condition where light gives her migraine-like symptoms. The discomfort she feels forces Reynolds to wear dark, thick goggles that limit her court vision so much that she has trouble seeing passing lanes and the basket. But because she's been playing with the disability for nearly four years, her other senses have improved so much that she can understand the layout of the floor, where her teammates are and execute her responsibilities playing point guard.
"I use my ears to figure out where I am on the court and where everyone else is and I've gotten so good at it that I can anticipate where people are going to be," said Reynolds.
Reynolds runs the point almost completely without using her eyes since she's only ever learned to play visually challenged. Before Reynolds began playing with goggles, her sixth grade coach noticed her play was different from the other girls' out on the floor.
"My husband coached her basketball team in middle school and he noticed she was going up and down the court with her eyes closed. She was that aware [of] what was going on, but at that point he knew something was wrong and he pulled her from the court...she was playing essentially blind," said Reynolds' mother Tracy.
Reynolds has visited eye specialists all over the region, but none have been able to come up with any solid answers. She still undergoes a variety of tests to see what exactly is wrong with her eyes and why they are so sensitive to light. In the meanwhile as her family searches for answers, Reynolds wears the goggles both on and off the court to shade her eyes enough for her to live and play basketball.
Because of her condition, Reynolds takes exams printed in larger font so she can see through her goggles. She also has to track her movement since images come into her eyes slower than people with normal eyes.
"She has the goggles and it helps her a lot. I'm so happy because at least something is there to help her. We can't get a diagnosis, we've been to doctor to doctor to doctor and no one has diagnosed her and we are still waiting to hear back and there's nothing. It is so frustrating as a parent because you want to help and you don't know how," said Reynolds' mother.
Reynolds remains positive through her and her family's efforts to learn what exactly is wrong with her eyes. The young guard has mastered her disability, playing entire games while setting school records in steals and assists last season.
Reynolds plays with her disability so well that most of the girls she matches up with believe Reynolds wears goggles simply because she needs glasses. But it still remains a challenge that her family has helped her through.
"My family has been very supportive taking me to any doctors necessary to help figure it out and I like to read a lot and that's been harder. I had to get a Kindle so I could increase the font of books I wanted to read," said Reynolds.
Reynolds is able keep to reading science-fiction thanks to Kindle. And as a science fiction fan, Reynolds uses the most well-known of visually impaired superheroes to help others understand how she uses her sense of touch to perceive the world.
"I've been compared to Daredevil a lot in [the] way of explaining how I see because I do use echoes that come back to me, but it's not as visible as in the comics," said Reynolds.