By Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
The Army’s 2012 Warrior Games sitting volleyball team has been determined. Twelve athletes made it through the selection process and competed over the last four months under the tutelage of Army, USA Volleyball, and U.S. Paralympic coaches.
Athletes trained together at the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Wellness Center in Edmond, Oklahoma and at a clinic hosted by Penn State University.
“We had a difficult time narrowing the field, but we believe we have the right talent and chemistry to move forward in fielding an Army team that will take gold at the 2012 Warrior Games,” said CPT David Vendt, Army sitting volleyball coach. “I can tell you one thing; our athletes will work their butts off. We will not get out hustled.”
The final team will represent the Army at the U.S. Olympic National Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 30 – May 5.
These finalists trained at UCO, a U.S. Paralympic training site, under the direction of Vendt and U.S. sitting volleyball athlete recruitment coordinator, Elliot Blake. Blake worked with all of these athletes at previous clinics that also include some Soldiers from the Army team that took silver at the 2011 Warrior Games.
“Movement, movement, movement,” Blake found himself repeating throughout the first day’s practice. “You just can’t underestimate the importance of moving, anticipating the next shot, and where you need to be on the court. If you’re sitting still and watching, you’re going to get beat. It’s easy to be lazy in the gym but the effort to win is the responsibility of every player.”
Blake’s consistent message resonated with the Army athletes. It didn’t take long for each to realize that to play as a team they had to work together.
“We’re not playing a pickup game. You’re practicing and preparing to compete at Warrior Games. Pass the ball. Always be thinking of passing and setting up a teammate for the next shot,” continued Blake, who calmly provided instruction in between drills, scrimmage sessions, and even at water breaks, never missing an opportunity to impress the fundamentals on the players.
“Ok, I want everyone to start calling the ball, when you say ‘mine’ it lets your teammates know you’ve got it, then they can move into position for the next shot. Always think about positioning and being prepared for the follow up shot,” Blake added.
Blake turned much of the UCO clinic sessions over to Vendt.
“We’re training each morning, taking a mid-day break, and then getting back after it,” said Vendt, an enthusiastic coach who volunteered for this gig after playing the game and setting up the Community-Based Warrior Transition Command (CBWTU) Virginia’s sitting volleyball program.
Vendt serves as the CBWTU-VA nurse case manager. In that capacity he assists Soldiers with employment, education, and transition opportunities.
“I really appreciate Master Sergeant Jongema and Lieutenant Colonel Williams from the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) Adaptive Reconditioning Branch for selecting me to lead this year’s Warrior Games sitting volleyball team,” said Vendt. “We’ve got a great bunch of Soldiers here, and I am committed to do my best to prepare them for the games.
“Working with Coach Blake, UCO, and the U.S. Paralympic folks has been so helpful, each is so knowledgeable,” Vendt added. “They really have embraced athletes and are committed to helping us prepare to be the best.”