Photo courtesy of Conley Lovette.
0812 Madelyn LovetteOak Mountain’s Madelyn Lovette excels at volleyball despite having Optic Nerve Atrophy. She wears #15 because Tim Tebow inspires her.
For Oak Mountain sophomore Madelyn Lovette, focusing on the volleyball during games looks different from her teammates.
She was diagnosed at age four with Optic Nerve Atrophy (ONA).
ONA is a permanent visual impairment caused by damage to the optic nerve. It causes functional vision loss, meaning it affects her vision in reading and other tasks, but with special bioptic lenses she’s recently received, she will be able to drive and do all the other things a teen girl wishes to do.
“She currently wears contacts, which helps focus objects that typically would look blurry to her,” said her father, Conley Lovette.
Lovette said he and his wife became aware of Madelyn’s limited visual abilities when she was four and she first started to look at books. “She would hold the book very close to her face,” he said.
Her diagnosis of ONA meant there was no cure, but her vision would be somewhat improved with glasses. Madelyn started out in glasses but transitioned to contacts at age eight. The school system has always worked to assist her with any additional help she might need in the classroom and supplies her with a special set of large print textbooks she uses at home.
When introduced to volleyball at age 12, Madelyn excelled at the sport despite her vision concerns. She played on the OMMS seventh and eighth grade teams and the OMHS ninth grade team. She now plays exclusively with the Alabama Juniors, a club volleyball team based in the Hoover area.
ONA affects her depth perception, so the issue was how well she would see the volleyball coming at her. She originally played a spot close to the net, but this past year she moved to play outside hitter on the back row. Her coach worked with her on her reaction time, which improved with her new position.
“There is no magic bullet; she’ll always live with this,” said Lovette. “But she counts on her faith and has done well and taken on whatever challenge has come her way.”