By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom
It was fun to hear the smack go down before the scrimmage between the WTC cadre and the Army wheelchair basketball team. However, after they started playing, the smack was gone on the cadre side. They were too busy keeping the ball and getting the chairs to turn more quickly. To their credit, the cadre gave it their all. They did a great job and played hard. Yet, the difference in the skill level between the two groups was very apparent. The Warrior Games Army team dominated the court and easily made complex plays look very easy. The cadre soon learned that maneuvering the wheelchairs and trying to win at the same time was not easy.
“They are tough. They didn’t cut any slack,” said MSG Rebeca Garo of AW2 Advocate Branch about the Army wheelchair basketball team. “Your hands are your legs, and it is harder than standing basketball. The coordination of moving the wheels and the fast change of direction is hard to coordinate. Then add catching, dribbling, and shooting the ball into the mix, and you realize you are out matched. I am at a complete disadvantage in this wheelchair. They go circles around me.”
Mr. Vondell Brown, a WTC staff member, also agreed. He said that you don’t even see the wheelchairs once the action starts. “You see top athletes coming at you fast. They are very skilled,” he explained. I asked him how he did against them, and if he had any great plays. He walked away smiling and saying, “Excuse me. I am going to get some water now.”
From the Army wheelchair basketball team side, I asked SGT Kinga “KJ” Kiss-Johnson her thoughts about playing the cadre. She said that they did well and it was fun. “MSG James Shiver effectively blocked me a few times,” added Kiss-Johnson. That is quite a feat since she is an awesome player. She said the coordination takes time to learn.
I asked Kiss-Johnson how she began playing basketball. She said it was recommended to her by her occupational therapist. She explained that it was a fun game, but beyond the fun, it helped her get better. Basketball helped her relearn not only physical skills, but it also helped her with her brain injury. “There is a lot of different and complex eye, hand, and body coordination that happens with this game. My brain knows how to play basketball, but getting my body to go where my brain wants it to go, took a lot of time to learn again. Plus, as competitive as Soldiers are, we work hard to gain the skills to win.” There is no denying that she has excelled in this endeavor. It sounds like basketball is just what the doctor ordered… and laughter is the best medicine. It is a great way to relearn skills outside of a therapy session and bond with other Soldiers and Veterans.
Returning from getting his water, Mr. Brown said with certainty, “I should have eaten my Wheaties®. I don’t see any one beating this team.”