Senior Liam Price Is Leaving a Legacy of Compassion, Kindness & Sportsmanship at CGHS
Photographer / Amy Counts
“I know I have a disability, but I have learned to not let my disability define my limitations or who I am.” Wise words from Center Grove High School Senior Liam Price, who has not only overcome challenges in life but has dedicated himself to inspiring others with similar struggles.
Liam has autism, Tourette’s syndrome, and high levels of anxiety.
“When my anxiety is triggered, certain things automatically happen to me that I can’t control,” Price says. “When I lose my focus, my mind can become paralyzed by a non-stop loop of obsessive, compulsive behaviors and tics that take over. There are times when I need a forced shut-down from everything and everyone in hopes that I can reset and re-boot my brain again.”
In fifth grade, Liam had to be homeschooled as he struggled to stay engaged in social settings.
“Being home-schooled did help me focus better on learning, but now I had no network of friends, a lot of time alone and lousy eating and exercise habits,” he says. “It was a choice of lifestyle that eventually left me very overweight and very lonely.”
Liam’s parents, Jon and Cindy, began taking him to Special Olympics competitions. His activities included swimming, basketball, flag football and ballroom dancing. Price felt it was time to try public school again. He enrolled at Center Grove High School for his freshman year.
“At first, I felt like a little fish in a massive pond,” Liam says. “One day, unexpectedly, everything changed. A teacher saw me running in PE class and he invited me to join the new Unified Track and Field team. At first, I was stunned. I thought to myself, ‘how was I going to contribute anything in a team sport?’ I was not a high school athlete. However, here was an opportunity to not only compete but also represent my school and wear my school colors. Unified Track and Field is a real IHSAA sport. There are regular-season meets, a Sectional, Regional and a trophy for winning State.
“Coach said I would also have teammates training with me. This gave me confidence in my athletic abilities and social skills. Our team made it to the State finals at Indiana University that year. I finished sixth in shot put, and third in the 100 Meter. The opportunity to compete on my high school’s Unified Track and Field team has changed my life.”
This school year, Liam was voted football homecoming king, serves as the boys basketball team manager, is an officer in his Best Buddies chapter and plans to run track in the spring.
Center Grove boys basketball coach Zach Hahn has witnessed Liam’s transformation from a shy freshman to one of the most outgoing and recognized students at CGHS.
“Liam has grown so much through his experiences at CG in being a manager for the basketball team and a participant in unified sports,” Hahn says. “Liam is involved in so many activities and works to help so many great causes. He demonstrates selfless leadership, thankfulness for his opportunities and unmatched passion in daily living. He has touched many lives and brings out the best in others. The basketball program is grateful we have had a small part in his purpose-driven life and cannot wait to see all that he accomplishes in the future.”
This summer, Liam was 1 of 14 students chosen to represent the U.S. as a Youth Ambassador for Special Olympics. He travels the state giving speeches to thousands of students and school administrators, promoting Unified Champion Schools and the Inclusion Revolution.
“Liam is passionate about sharing his personal story with others and expanding their understanding of how unified sports have impacted him,” says CGHS Principal Dr. Jeff Henderson. “He wants to ensure that other students around the state have the same opportunities he has had. Participation in unified sports has helped Liam grow, mature and gain confidence in himself. His involvement as an ambassador for unified sports programs has allowed him to gain confidence in speaking to large groups of students and adults about the benefits of being involved. We are lucky to have students like Liam, and we are thrilled that he has been given the opportunity to be involved with the IHSAA’s Champions Together program. We look forward to supporting him as he spreads the message of inclusion and involvement throughout the state.”
Linda Boothe, Coordinator of Johnson County Special Olympics, says Liam puts his full energy into doing the best he can at everything he tries and often goes above and beyond.
“We have an Athlete Leadership Program within Special Olympics,” Boothe says. “Each of the athletes must set goals and complete homework. This entails community service. He volunteered at several of our Special Olympics Johnson County events, but he also helped squeeze lemons for lemonade at the Johnson County Fair for Gateway Services and volunteered at a golf outing at the Special Olympics Indiana at the state level. Liam encourages other athletes to do their best and in doing so has become a mentor and a leader with the other athletes.”
On the first day back to school following Center Grove High School football’s state championship game, Liam hand-delivered a congratulatory letter and picture to CGHS football coach Eric Moore.
“He congratulated us on a great year and what a great team we were,” Moore says. “He is so proud and happy for us. Liam thinks about everybody else before himself. The letter made me feel good. It’s an honor to think he could be thinking so highly of our program. His heart is so big. It is a heart of gold.”
CGHS Assistant Athletic Director, Scott Knapp says Liam embodies what Unified Sports are all about.
“Liam not only represents himself when he participates in Unified Sports, he represents all of Center Grove — of which we should all be proud,” he says. “In this day and age where students are so tied to their electronic devices and shy away from face-to-face conversations with adults, Liam is the first to greet both staff and students with a high five or a fist bump, ask about your day, or talk about sports. Liam’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. He leaves a positive impact on our student body.”
Liam has shown great courage to share his story with so many people.
“Through it all, I’ve grown by putting myself out there, and working to achieve my goals,” Liam says. “Whether I win or lose, I know that my effort counts, which makes me a stronger, happier and a better person. Unified Champion Schools are creating inclusive school environments, inclusive sports teams and leadership opportunities, which has played a significant role in motivating me to create a new outlook for my future and helped me to focus more on what is possible in my life. I would encourage all schools to consider being a part of a Unified Champion School for the possible life-altering path it can provide through friendships and servant leadership.”
Liam encourages all schools in Indiana and the nation to provide unified sports and work towards becoming a Unified Champion School Banner Winner.
“My unified partners and my friends have shown me through their expressions in acceptance, inclusion, friendship and sportsmanship, the idea that I can make myself a valued asset to any team,” Liam adds. “My friends have shown me, I have the ability to make impactful contributions to any team.”
Liam has been awarded the U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar Scholarship and will attend the University of Indianapolis, majoring in math and criminal justice. He will also be a part of U Indy’s NCCAA II swim and dive team as a walk-on-athlete.