Sebastian (Seba) Robe was born in 2002 weighing 1810g (3lb 14oz) and his twin sister, Savannah was 1321g (2lb 14oz). He was born 9 weeks prematurely, but was able to go home one month before his actual due date.
Around the 12 month mark Sebastian’s parents, Rene and Antoinette Robe, noticed that he did not seem to be reaching the age-appropriate milestones and was not able to walk at 14 months. This was not sending out any alarm bells, as some children are late developers, but they were advised to start physiotherapy with him. Sebastian was still unable to walk any more than 5 steps without collapsing one year later. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in July of 2005, aged 2 years 7 months. He has spastic diplegia and his parents were told that he would not be able to walk by the time he had to go to school.
Between 2005 and 2008, Sebastian had two sessions of Botox injections with weekly physiotherapy, fortnightly occupational therapy and weekly swimming sessions. A wheelchair is used to assist Sebastian access places that would normally involve a lot of walking (at school, family holidays, shopping centres).
By age 5, Sebastian could walk independently (although not for any great distances), could pedal his bicycle, hit a golf ball, jump and land on two feet, float on his back and was learning to swim. He had a bit of trouble kicking a ball, as well as running without falling over and managing stairs, but he was determined that he would be walking to school on his first day – and he did!
Towards the middle of 2010 Sebastian’s parents made contact with the team at Football for Children and made an appointment to meet with them to discuss the opportunity of Sebastian being able to join them for soccer coaching. By this time, Sebastian knew that he was different to other kids and was always falling over and getting hurt (both at school and at home). He did not enjoy going to one-on-one physiotherapy as he felt like he was being punished for having cerebral palsy and so other opportunities were investigated.
Soccer was chosen because it offered a place where he could learn to keep his balance when lots of people were running around him, which would help him learn how to adjust his balance from foot to foot and for him to be able to do it in a safe and fun environment. Soccer’s other major draw card was that there is an Australian soccer team made up of people with cerebral palsy, and he and his family thought, how cool would be it be for Sebastian to be able to represent his country for sport! No one would have ever thought that would be possible for the boy who could not walk more than 5 steps.
Being part of the Football for Children program has given Sebastian the opportunity to do his ‘therapy’ every week, except now it is called ‘soccer training’. He has developed his physical skills to the point that he runs in the school sports day, can ride a modified bicycle, can go ten-pin bowling, swims, goes snorkeling and can do almost anything else that a 10 year boy wants to do. The other major benefit for him has been the team environment that is fostered by the Football for Children coaches, so that he never feels left out.
During Easter 2012, the National Paralympic State Championships were hosted by Frenchville Sports Club. Teams from every State would be attending and Sebastian’s parents approached the coach of the Queensland team (Rockhampton based) and asked if he would be able to be involved in some way and would they be able to meet some of the guys from the team (the youngest is 16). The Qld captain (who is also the National captain and who also lives in Rockhampton) and the coach were very giving with their time, along with the other guys in the team, and invited Sebastian to be their mascot for the weekend. He spent time with them in the locker rooms, during training and was also allowed to sit on the bench during the games. Queensland came second and Sebastian was as upset as the rest of the team! Meeting these guys gave Sebastian the motivation to continue playing soccer.
In April 2013, Sebastian put on a Club shirt and played along side his younger brother Christian in his first ever game of soccer as part of a team. He plays as part of the U-9 team (as he has a F5 disability classification) and his team won their first game. Sebastian’s parents and siblings were standing on the sideline with his coaches who were all very excited to see him play for the first time and, as you would imagine, they were quite emotional.
Sebastian was apprehensive before the game and was worried that he would embarrass himself or let the team down. He was so concerned that he was not good enough, but none of that mattered when he strapped on his boots, put on his kit and had a great game. He even managed to not be the first player to take a tumble!
Sebastian is an inspiration to all that know him – he teaches that you never give up, that anything is possible, and you are only limited by your own ability to give it a go!