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Manager helps inspire Forest Hills Northern basketball team

Freshman team manager Nathan Dlouhy, who has down syndrome, is a huge part of the program
Posted at 11:15 PM, Dec 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 23:54:57-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nathan Dlouhy has found a second family with the Forest Hills Northern boys basketball program.

"We found out two weeks before he was born that he had down syndrome," Nathan's mother, Amie said.

Geoff Vermeulen was named a head coach in the Huskies program four years ago and immediately talked to Nathan's family about including him.

"He goes 'hey I'm going to become the JV coach at Forest Hills, do you think Nathan would want to become my manager?'" Nathan's father, Paul said. "I'm like what? That would be the coolest thing ever."

For the past four years, Nathan has been along for every moment on the court.

"He always comes over and gives me a fist bump or high five and says I'm here," Vermeulen said. "He's got a big smile on his face, if we can't incorporate him in something, he's still right there watching."

"Nathan isn't shy either as he pushes the players day in and day out.

"I help my team," Nathan said. "I help with water."

He also helps the team by making free throws so they don't have to run during practice.

Over the last four years, those around Nathan have noticed the increase in his basketball knowledge as well.

"He showed me these papers that he had filled out," his mother said. "They were plays, basketball plays."

The players and coaches listen when he draws those up.

Nathan is just one of three managers with special needs in the Huskies basketball program, a true story of inclusion from top to bottom.

"It's great for Northern students, the community, our teachers and players to love everybody," varsity coach Joe Soules said. "Everybody wants to give back and help, that inclusiveness is huge for us."

Nathan is always bringing a smile to practice and has found a love for basketball.

"He always talks about my team, this is my team," his father said. "When they win he's excited and when they lose he's sad, he's definitely a part of them."

"I'm happy when we win," Nathan said.