Will Koester ’22 Interviews Athletes with Learning Disabilities for Research Fellowship

Summer 2020 did not unfold for Will Koester ’22 as he anticipated. He had hoped to be working at a golf course on Martha’s Vineyard, but the pandemic disrupted his plans. However, there was a silver lining, and Will ended up spending his summer in a much more meaningful way.  

Through a family connection, he contacted David Flink, Founder and CEO of Eye to Eye. The organization supports young people with learning disabilities and ADHD, and they are most known for their mentorship program. Mr. Flink explained that Eye to Eye offers a research fellowship that asks students to interview leaders in a particular field to better understand how those individuals excelled and persevered through their learning disabilities. Will was excited to pursue the opportunity, and, as a lifelong sports fan, he decided to focus his research on elite athletes. 

Will spoke with four athletes over the course of his project. He interviewed Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw, all-star conference Division I athlete and fellow Windward alum Harry Zimmerman ’12, WNBA all-star and former rookie of the year Jewell Lloyd, and retired NFL player and current Division I football coach Jovan Haye.  

“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my gosh I am interviewing these amazing athletes!’ I couldn’t believe I was speaking to these athletes,’” recalled Will. 

In synthesizing what he learned from his interviews, Will appreciated how valuable it is for well-known figures to be open and share their stories of having a learning disability.  

“When I was 5-years-old, I always thought the athletes I watched on TV were perfect humans because they were amazing at sports,” said Will. “But after these conversations, I realized that even elite athletes who have learning disabilities have had struggles like me, such as trying their absolute hardest to do well in school." 

Will was impressed that all four athletes credited their learning disability as an asset. Because a learning disability makes certain tasks more difficult, the athletes agreed that the challenge forced them to have the fiercest work ethic out of all their teammates. 

Having recently completed his junior year at Salisbury School in Connecticut, Will hopes he might be able to start a mentorship chapter of Eye to Eye during his senior year. After graduation, he plans to continue pursuing his interest of sports. Will dreams of one day becoming an NFL scout or being involved on the business side of the industry.