ADHD Athletes: Inspiring Sports Stars with Attention Deficit

Three inspiring athletes with ADHD reveal how their attention deficit has helped shape them into top competitors and big winners.

ADHD Athletes, Part 3

Cammi Granato

Olympic gold and silver medalist, women's hockey
"My success in sports forced me to deal with AD/HD."

Cammi Granato scored more goals than any other player in the history of U.S. women's hockey. She led her team to a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano and a silver at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. She even skated her way onto the cover of the Wheaties cereal box. Yet, off the ice, Granato's life was a mess. As her fame grew, it got messier.

"My life began spinning out of control," recalls the Downers Grove, Illinois, native, who is now 35. "The number of voice messages and e-mails I received became overwhelming, I couldn't return them all. My bills didn't get paid. My house was a mess. I bought every anti-clutter book out there, but they just became part of the clutter."

For years, she blamed the chaos on mere forgetfulness. Then, in 2003, she heard a sports psychologist talk about AD/HD. The symptoms fit her perfectly. She consulted a doctor, who confirmed the diagnosis.

"I've probably had AD/HD my entire life," says Granato. "Growing up, my parents called me 'the Little Tornado.' But in a house with six kids, my behavior probably seemed normal."

On the ice, of course, Granato's frenetic behavior worked to her advantage. "The sport doesn't require a lot of thinking," she says. "You just react. You're in the moment. I was a natural at that."

Granato says it was a relief to realize that AD/HD was behind her inability to deal with day-to-day responsibilities. "I'd just assumed I wouldn't finish projects or return calls because I was lazy," she says. "Now I knew the cause, and could focus on solutions."

Determined to get her life on track, Granato arranged for her bills to be paid automatically. She consolidated her to-do lists into one document on her laptop and discarded box after box of outdated files. But on August 24, 2005, as she was getting her personal life in order, her professional life took a devastating hit: She was cut from the U.S. women's hockey team.

"It was a shock that I can only compare to a death," she recalls. "I went through a period of mourning. Suddenly, the outlet for all my energy, and the source of my self-esteem, was gone."

A few months before the 2006 Olympic games, NBC Sports called to ask Granato if she was interested in going to Turin as a sportscaster. At first, it seemed a bad idea. Being on the sidelines would be frustrating to someone whose life had been dedicated to playing hockey. And she worried that her AD/HD would get in the way.

"Sometimes it's hard to get thoughts from my head out of my mouth in a concise way," she says. Luckily, her husband, former hockey pro and ESPN sportscaster Ray Ferraro, proved to be the perfect coach for her new endeavor. "We'd watch hockey games together, and I'd practice commenting on them," she says. "He'd show me how to weed out the wordy stuff."

Granato had a great time in Turin. "Though I wasn't playing, I found myself feeling all the highs and lows of the game," she says. "It was nice to still feel that. I may never be the best sportscaster out there, but life isn't about being the best, with or without AD/HD. It's about meeting challenges, and doing the best job you can. AD/HD comes with certain strengths and weaknesses that have made me who I am, and I wouldn't trade that for anything."

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This article comes from the June/July 2006 issue of ADDitude.

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