Isaiah Bingham wearing his football pads and smiling

Rodney Choice/AP Images for Scholastic (all images)

Nothing Can Hold Me Back

Isaiah Bingham is legally blind, but he doesn’t let that stop him from following his dreams.

As You Read, Think About: What does Isaiah mean when he says “Vision is better than sight”?

For Isaiah Bingham, it was a dream come true. The 11-year-old from Newark, Delaware, had been practicing with his football team for weeks. Finally, it was time for their first game of the 2020 season. Like his teammates, Isaiah was excited and a bit nervous. But he faced a challenge that no one else on his team did. Isaiah is legally blind.

Isaiah was born with a condition called bilateral optic nerve coloboma. His eyes didn’t form properly before he was born, which left him with holes in his retinas. These layers of tissue at the back of the eyes detect light and color. So Isaiah can see things clearly only if they’re right in front of him. Anything too far away or off to the side is either very blurry or not visible.

When Isaiah was a baby, a doctor told his parents that the only sport he’d ever be able to try was swimming. But Isaiah has never let his eyesight be a barrier to achieving his goals—including playing tackle football. 

“I prove a lot of people wrong by doing things you wouldn’t think I could do,” Isaiah says. 

For Isaiah Bingham, it was a dream come true. The 11-year-old from Newark, Delaware, had been practicing with his football team for weeks. Finally, it was time for their first game of the 2020 season. Like his teammates, Isaiah was excited and a bit nervous. But he faced a challenge that no one else on his team did. Isaiah is legally blind.

Isaiah was born with a condition called bilateral optic nerve coloboma. His eyes did not form properly before he was born. This left him with holes in his retinas. These layers of tissue at the back of the eyes detect light and color. So Isaiah can see things clearly only if they are right in front of him. Anything too far away or off to the side is either very blurry or not visible.

When Isaiah was a baby, a doctor told his parents that the only sport he would ever be able to try was swimming. But Isaiah has never let his eyesight be a barrier. He’s still achieved his goals—including playing tackle football.  

“I prove a lot of people wrong by doing things you wouldn’t think I could do,” Isaiah says. 

Isaiah’s dad helps him practice before and after football season. 

Beating the Odds 

At first, Isaiah’s mom, Dionne, refused to allow him to play football because she thought it was too dangerous. How could her son protect himself when he couldn’t clearly see what was coming at him?

But then she thought about all the challenges Isaiah had already overcome. He practically taught himself to roller-skate and learned to ride a bike with no training wheels. He also plays basketball and baseball. 

“We’ve always encouraged him to use what he has to the best of his ability,” Dionne says. “So how could I put limits on him now?”

At first, Isaiah’s mom, Dionne, refused to allow him to play football. She thought it was too dangerous. How could her son protect himself when he could not clearly see what was coming at him?

But then she thought about all the challenges Isaiah had already overcome. He practically taught himself to roller-skate. He learned to ride a bike with no training wheels. He also plays basketball and baseball. 

“We have always encouraged him to use what he has to the best of his ability,” Dionne says. “So how could I put limits on him now?”

Up to the Challenge

Last summer, Isaiah’s parents agreed to sign him up for a local youth football league. He did so well at tryouts that he was the second player chosen for his team. It was then that Isaiah’s dad, Bernard, told the coaches about his son’s eyesight. Up until that point, the coaches had no idea.

During the season, Isaiah continued to surprise everyone. He played noseguard on defense. He loves making tackles and forcing opponents to fumble the ball. The coaches were so impressed with Isaiah’s talent and leadership that they made him one of the team captains.

Although Isaiah’s team lost in the playoffs, his season was a success. He made new friends and gained new confidence. He also earned a new nickname: Vision. A coach affectionately gave him the name because even though Isaiah doesn’t have perfect eyesight, he has a clear vision for what he wants out of life. 

“Vision is better than sight,” says Isaiah. 

Last summer, Isaiah’s parents agreed to sign him up for a local youth football league. He did so well at tryouts. He was the second player chosen for his team. It was then that Isaiah’s dad, Bernard, told the coaches about his son’s eyesight. Up until that point, the coaches had no idea.

During the season, Isaiah continued to surprise everyone. He played noseguard on defense. He loves making tackles and forcing opponents to fumble the ball. The coaches were so impressed with Isaiah’s talent and leadership. They made him one of the team captains.

Although Isaiah’s team lost in the playoffs, his season was a success. He made new friends and gained new confidence. He also earned a new nickname: Vision. 

A coach affectionately gave him the name. Because even though Isaiah doesn’t have perfect eyesight, he has a clear vision for what he wants out of life. 

“Vision is better than sight,” says Isaiah. 

A Bright Future 

Football isn’t Isaiah’s only passion. With the help of his family, he started his own clothing line, called Vision 2020. He’s also writing a book about his life. He hopes it will inspire other kids to follow their dreams, no matter what obstacles they might face.

Although Isaiah has a positive attitude, there are moments when he gets discouraged by his poor eyesight. But then he reminds himself that not only do his differences make him unique, but they’ve also taught him to persevere.

“I see things differently than other people, but I can do anything,” Isaiah says.

Football is not Isaiah’s only passion. With the help of his family, he started his own clothing line. It’s called Vision 2020. He is also writing a book about his life. He hopes it will inspire other kids to follow their dreams, no matter what obstacles they might face.

Although Isaiah has a positive attitude, there are moments when he gets discouraged by his poor eyesight. But then he reminds himself that not only do his differences make him unique. They have also taught him to persevere.

“I see things differently than other people, but I can do anything,” Isaiah says.

1. Isaiah says, “I prove a lot of people wrong.” What details does the author give to support this idea?

2. What is the section “Beating the Odds” mainly about?

3. What is the meaning behind Isaiah’s nickname?

1. Isaiah says, “I prove a lot of people wrong.” What details does the author give to support this idea?

2. What is the section “Beating the Odds” mainly about?

3. What is the meaning behind Isaiah’s nickname?

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