Pro tennis player. Former two-time U.S. Paralympic athlete. A positive influence in empowering girls to embrace healthy lifestyle choices. All of these titles describe Atlantan Karin Korb, whose motto is “Live to train; train to live.” Even after a vaulting accident left her paralyzed at age 17, Karin didn’t let it slow her down. This May she will be inducted into the Georgia Tennis Hall of Fame, yet another honor to add to her ever-growing list of accomplishments. “I’m the first person with a disability to ever be inducted and once again, the enfoldment of my universe never ceases to amaze me!” she says. “I don’t know how to explain all the twists and turns in my life, but what I do know is that I just open my palms and say ‘yes’ to living a full life.”
What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself after your vaulting accident?
The most surprising thing that I learned about myself was how ignorant I was about people with physical disabilities. I didn’t really know I was one of “them” until about 10 years after my injury. I disassociated with my peer population for a long, long time. I really did think I was the only cute girl in a wheelchair in the universe. Boy, was I ever wrong!
You didn’t pick up a tennis racket until you were 27 years old. How did you get involved with tennis?
I was a criminal defense paralegal by day and worked in a night club at night. One of the bouncers (Bill Howard) asked me if I wanted to play tennis. We went out the following day, and I was good! The next time we played he showed me an advertisement for a wheelchair tennis camp being held in California. I wound up going and it changed my entire life.
I learned so much about myself that week and stayed to play in my first wheelchair tennis tournament. Michael Watson saw my potential and mentored my talent. I will be forever grateful to him for seeing in me what I never saw in myself. I can’t imagine my life without tennis and I still have so much to learn. I teach at multiple sports camps and tennis clinics throughout the year. The past five years have brought an influx of military specific camps and I have found a new passion and specialize in teaching those who have acquired traumatic brain injuries.
What is “Divability: Mine, Yours, Ours” and what motivated you to start it?
After 20 years of working with children and adults with disabilities, I kept seeing the same things as it related to women and girls with disabilities. I would constantly ask myself, “Where are our role models?” A woman with a disability doesn’t open a magazine and see a reflection of herself. I kept thinking about what I can do to change the perceptions of women and girls with disabilities.
I remember distinctly how the first camp was created. I was on my way to Kentucky and totally exhausted. I was talking with my boss for the weekend (Dave Hartsek) about my idea to create a camp for girls with disabilities and he thought it was an amazing idea. A few months later, he booked the venue and invited a unique group of girls and Divability was born.
What is your advice to others who live with a disability?
So, the question really is: What is my advice to others? (My point: everyone has a little somethin’ somethin’ that’s paralyzing them from moving forward in their lives). My advice is this: Trust your process. Life is about the twists and turns, questions as well as answers. I don’t believe in “right and wrong.” Life “is,” and how you choose to look at it will create your personal experience. Know that change happens when you choose to get out of your own way and take responsibility for your own life.
What do you do to stay healthy?
I deeply believe that a healthy life begins with a healthy mind! My spiritual practice is the foundation of everything I do. I begin my day with what is called “Meditation on Twin Hearts.” I am a practitioner of Pranic Healing (a comprehensive system of energy-based healing techniques). I work out every day because I love to eat! I play tennis at least three times per week and double cardio either at the gym or push the hills at Piedmont Park. I love to cook and I eat very cleanly during the week. I allow myself one day a week to eat whatever I wish.
What is the next big project you would like to tackle?
There are a few! My focus is on four things: (1) Creating a women’s sports initiative as it relates to veterans who are female who have sustained a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and a physical disability/disabilities, (2) formalizing competitive tennis opportunities for arm and leg amputees, (3) creating an integrated tennis event at the Warrior Games, which would be the deciding all-around event (dreaming about this one for a year already), and (4) which is really number one, the biggest project and work in progress is my own soul’s expansion, and the list goes on.