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NEWS | Jan. 29, 2024

Building confidence through adaptive sports

By MaryTherese Griffin Army Recovery Care Program

When wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers choose adaptive sports as part of their road to recovery, they might find themselves with a map guiding them to confidence building and teamwork. Col. Roy Walker has been the comprehensive Recovery Plan Division Chief at the Army Recovery Care Program for nearly three years and knows the value of adaptive sports.
“Adaptive sports are mentally and physically therapeutic. These guys and gals have some rough stuff they’ve been through, and this gives them a chance to compete and be part of a team again, and it takes their mind off other problems they may have.”

Walker visited with fourteen Soldiers from Soldier Recovery Units (SRUs) participating in the 2024 wheelchair rugby camp at Fort Belvoir last week. He explained that having adaptive sports training like wheelchair rugby camp can help boost confidence: “When they try adaptive sports, and they find out hey, I’m pretty good at this, it boosts their confidence. That confidence boost helps them maintain a positive attitude. Mental well-being is vital to total recovery. It may not be a total physical recovery, but hopefully, it can help with total mental recovery.”

CW3 Kirk Holden, from our JBLM SRU, shared his path into adaptive sports at 56. “I was just having fun doing the different events. I never heard of wheelchair rugby but found that I like it! And I am good at it! This camp is great. We are learning the mechanics of it and how to do things safely and properly.”

Safely, properly, and with confidence. Walker, a field artilleryman with 81 jumps while in the 18th FA Brigade, explained that trifecta the best way he knows how. “In Jump Master school, they tell you a confident Jump Master will instill confidence in the jumpers. If you have a confident Jump Master up there who knows what he is doing, is smooth, and knows the commands, it instills confidence in the jumpers where they believe they will be ok. So having our subject matter expert like Coach Joel Rodriguez, who played on Team Army and Team US and now professionally come and teach them wheelchair rugby, having a guy like that here builds confidence,” said Waker.

Having fun is also important, according to Walker, and it’s clear these Soldier athletes who left a little sorer than they showed up agree. “I enjoyed meeting everyone; we all got along and had fun. We were learning not only about each other and our different paths to recovery, but we are bonding as a team,” said Sgt 1st Class Saul Sierra of our Ft Campbell SRU.

Confidence and hard work will help them as a team as they continue their adaptive sports journey in March at the 2024 Army Trials. They will accept the challenge to vie for a spot on Team Army to compete at this year’s Warrior Games in Orlando.

“I don’t think anybody on that floor is afraid of a challenge,” said Walker.