Marines

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Corporal Jose D. Gasca practices setting the volleyball during a sports camp here Friday. The training camp is the second of six hosted by the Wounded Warrior Regiment’s Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program. Wounded, ill and injured Marines spent three days training in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

Photo by Capt. Jill A. Leyden

Wounded warriors hit the court

22 Oct 2010 | Capt. Jill A. Leyden

Active duty and veteran Marines from across the country gathered at the University of Central Oklahoma Friday to participate in a sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball camp.  Fifteen wounded, ill and injured Marines, with ability levels from novice to elite, spent three intense days practicing fundamentals, performing drills and conducting scrimmages in both adaptive sports. 

The training camp is the second of six hosted by the Wounded Warrior Regiment’s Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program.  The WAR program “provides athletic support for wounded, ill or injured Marines in order to show the benefits of sport in the recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration process,” according to Maj. Susie Stark, officer-in-charge of the program. 

Volleyball camp coach and U.S. Paralympic volleyball team member, Katie Holloway, led energetic and dynamic sessions which demanded high levels of endurance and focus from the athletes. 

“Be intense, let’s go!” Holloway commanded as the Marines performed tiring dynamic stretches and agility drills up and down the court. 

“This is surprisingly hard,” an athlete said, sweat pouring down his face as he used only his arms to glide his body back and forth across court.

Holloway had four volunteer coaches assisting her who provided more in-depth training during the camp. Charlie Swearingen, Ed O'Neil, Kari Miller and Nichole Millage, all of whom are Holloway’s teammates, took turns assisting and teaching the athletes how to perfect their techniques.

After a brief break, wheelchair basketball practice began with the same intensity, led by Billy Demby.  The athletes ran through fundamental instruction on wheelchair maneuvers, dribbling techniques and shooting tips.  The Marines also had a chance to play each other in games to sharpen their skills.

Coach Demby, a Vietnam veteran and bilateral amputee himself, is not new to working with Marine Corps wounded warriors and the WAR program.  Demby coached the All-Marine wheelchair basketball team to win gold in the 2010 Inaugural Warrior Games.  This victory, along with a first place sitting volleyball team, led the Marines to take home the Chairman’s Cup, achieving victory over the Army, Navy and Air Force teams.

“We had a great group of folks for the camp,” Demby said of the WII athletes he coached. “The key is being able to coach each ability level while improving each athlete’s skills.”

Some of the athletes who attended the camp competed on the sitting volleyball or wheelchair basketball team during the 2010 Inaugural Warrior Games.

“Not only does the camp allow WII Marines to explore the two adaptive sports, for some, it is a chance to practice their skills before the Marine Corps Warrior Games Trials in February,” Stark said.  The Trials provide WII Marines an opportunity to be selected to participate in the 2011 Warrior Games on the All-Marine team.  The Trials will be from February 18-27 aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. 

Corporal Jose D. Gasca, an El Paso, Texas native, plays at an intermediate level in both sports and will go to the Trials to compete for a spot on either the wheelchair basketball or sitting volleyball All-Marine team for the Warrior Games.  When his leadership at Walter Reed Army Medical Center told him about the camp, he saw it as an opportunity to perfect his skills so he is at peak performance for the Trials.

“The camp showed me the basic knowledge of the skills required to play the game well,” Gasca said.  “It was also a good chance to spend time with the Marines from Walter Reed outside of our daily routine and to meet other Marines.”


Preparing for the camp could have been more difficult and complex than a typical sports event so the University to Central Oklahoma was a top choice for location said Stark.  She felt the university was best suited to host the athletes.  According to Elliot Blake, the Sitting Volleyball Coordinator for USA Volleyball and the university, "the University of Central Oklahoma became an official U.S. Paralympics training site in 2005, beginning with sitting volleyball.  We have since grown to include the sports of archery, powerlifting, and rowing, and earned the Olympic training site designation for the respective sports in 2009."

For more information about upcoming sports camps or the Marine Corps Warrior Games trials, go to www.woundedwarriorregiment.org and click on Warrior Games or send an email to WWRWarriorGames@usmc.mil.  To learn more about the U.S.A. Paralympics, visit www.usparalympics.org.


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