The pride of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Josh Philbeck inspires his family and teammates at Mixed Nationals.
© Juan Ocampo
By Matt Birch, special to USTA.com
TUCSON, Ariz. - Josh Philbeck is representing the Missouri Valley section this weekend at the 2011 USTA League 6.0 Mixed National Championships - and if you ask his teammates, or even members of his Oklahoma town of Broken Arrow, he has inspired a community to challenge themselves.
Philbeck was born with Holt-Oram Syndrome, which is characterized by skeletal abnormalities of the hands and arms, and impacts approximately one in 100,000 people. He has undergone multiple surgeries at the renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota to increase his ease of living, and has no forearms and only eight fingers.
"Growing up, I think everyone wants to be normal," he said. "I was always physically different instead of hiding something internal. I had to face it and I think when I got older, I got more confident and realized that everyone has their own issues and that they have to live and fight through to overcome."
Despite his condition, Philbeck has actively participated in golf throughout his life, and currently plays as a six handicap. Over the past few years, he has also taken up tennis, and is now competing with his teammates from the Indian Springs Country Club at Nationals.
"I have good footwork and hand-eye coordination," he added. "I had to learn how to (manuever) a lot on my own, and I have an unusual grip on both golf clubs and tennis racquets - but it hasn’t stopped me from being able to compete."
About two years ago, he started an organization known as "The Wizard’s Way," which helps young kids with Holt-Oram Syndrome, as well as helping young people in general to overcome obstacles. He sells golf and inspirational DVDs explaining golf fundamentals in addition to explaining how to conquer difficulties in life.
He has recently begun making inspirational speeches to kids at local schools about some of the key principles from The Wizard's Way program, which includes: Not being afraid to ask for help, learning from your mistakes and being yourself.
"I always like to help others, and think this is a good opportunity to lead by example and show people that anything in this world is possible with hard work and determination. I think we’re born with ability and have to learn how to win, and achieve. It’s not given, it’s earned and deserved."
Philbeck, 36, is married and has two young children. He is enjoying his experience at Nationals and is continuing to inspire people every day.
"I’m real excited to be here at Nationals. Everybody here is a close knit group and we’re going to have a good time. I am glad I get a chance to compete with all of the awesome tennis players that are here.