By Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
Thirty wounded warriors from Army commands as far as Hawaii and Europe descended on a small bedroom community north of Oklahoma City, OK, this past weekend to hone their sitting volleyball skills. These wounded warriors included military police officers, engineers, rangers, 88 M truck drivers, and three Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veterans. Supported by coaches and members of the U.S. Paralympic Volleyball team, these athletes trained to get one step closer to the 2011 Warrior Games.
The second annual 2011 Warrior Games, scheduled for May 16–21, 2011, at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, will bring 200 wounded, ill, and injured service members from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces together in athletic competition. Athletes will compete in several sports including shooting, swimming, archery, track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball.
In 2010, the Army sitting volleyball Warrior Games team took home the silver medal after being defeated by the Marines. This inspired SGT Cayle Foidel, a 2010 Warrior Games gold medalist and newcomer to sitting volleyball, to train for the 2011 Army sitting volleyball Warrior Games team. Foidel explained, “We all feel we need to get better and are committed to doing so. We’ve trained hard this week and I used muscles I didn’t even know I had. My butt really hurts!”
MSG James Shiver, Warrior Transition Command (WTC) Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge of Adaptive Sports, explained the WTC’s collaboration with other organizations to make the event possible. “WTC is working closely with our University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) partners to coach, train, and select the Army’s 2011 Warrior Games team. We’re really excited to have the opportunity to team with UCO and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees to prepare our athletes for competition against the Marines, Navy, and Air Force teams.”
Elliott Blake, UCO sitting volleyball coordinator, was responsible for the training regime, schedule, and further development of the athletes into cohesive team players. During orientation, Blake set the tone for the week by telling the athletes, “We’re going to work you hard and we don’t want excuses. We won’t tolerate tardiness and following instructions is key to your success at this week’s clinic. The more athletes follow our instructions, the more they will learn and progress, and ultimately improve their chances of making the Army team.”
Wounded warrior athletes welcomed the intense training. SPC Robert Nuss, Fort Benning Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), said concerning the training, “I am learning a lot of new skills here and it’s great to get this opportunity to train with the Paralympic coaches and players. I went to Warrior Games last year and placed second in the Chairman’s Cup, and I am very excited about the opportunity to go back in 2011.”
Although SPC Damion Peyton, Fort Gordon, GA, didn’t make the team in 2010, he agreed with Nuss about the clinic. “Practice has been a bit much and the training has been very extreme, but the clinic is a great method to determine the best Soldiers for the team.”
Another newcomer to Warrior Games training and sitting volleyball is AW2 Veteran Margaux Vair who played various sports throughout high school and joined the military to compete on the Army Women’s Soccer Team. “I played traditional volleyball in high school in Colorado, but sitting volleyball is really different,” she said. “It’s all upper body work and I’ve got blisters on my thumbs, my hands are sore, and my butt really hurts. It looks easy as folks slide around on the floor, but it really is deceptive on how hard you’re working out there.”
Shiver, who coordinated the sitting volleyball clinic, also set up last month’s wheelchair basketball clinic and this month’s upcoming shooting clinic with the Army’s Marksmanship School at Fort Benning, believes all the training will pay off. He stated, “Yes, our goal is to win Warrior Games and we are committed to train and field the best team we can. However, I want to get all 10,000 Soldiers in our WTUs involved in sports and recreation. If you get people involved in sports, it will spill over and get other people motivated in pursuing education, rehabilitation, and other areas.”
Shiver encouraged all wounded, ill, and injured athletes that want to compete in the 2011 Warrior Games to contact their chain of command and submit a nomination packet. Nominations are due no later than February 1, 2011. Packets will be evaluated by WTC and the Army team will be announced on February 15, 2011.