All-Army sports program motivates 8th MP officer; results in volleyball gold
June 16, 2014
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - "Being an athlete is an innate characteristic; once it's inside you, it never goes away. You always want to get out on that court, be on that field of competition," said 1st Lt. Ali Giraud, officer in charge S-1 shop, 303rd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command.
Giraud, a former NCAA Division I athlete in volleyball, spoke those words seated behind her desk in the personnel shop of battalion headquarters, June 12, while taking a moment from her duties to reflect on a recent opportunity to continue a passion she once thought was over.
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in May of 2012 Giraud thought her days of competitive athletics were over. She wondered how she would handle this newly created void. Would the desire to compete in a sport she loved, that had been such a large part of her life, ever subside? Could this void ever be filled?
"I thought my career was over after college. I saw my peers [former teammates and competitors] dealing with not being able to compete at such a high level anymore and it made me nervous," said Giraud.
That was until Giraud, a native of Petaluma, Calif, discovered the All-Army Sports Program in 2013.
The then 23-year-old Giraud was well on her way to becoming a Soldier-Athlete.
Soldier-Athletes must apply to be selected for the All-Army Sports Program in their respective sport of expertise. Soldier-Athletes then go on to represent the Army in Armed Forces Sports Championships and national and international competitions.
Giraud applied for the All-Army Volleyball Team, and was invited to try out. She made the cut and has been a member of the team for the past two years.
"Once I researched the program, I found out I could compete with a wonderful group of women that serve their country while wanting to get out on that court and play some good ball," said Giraud. "It's an exciting opportunity, allowing me to continue to grow as an athlete while bringing out the competitive side of me; which is always going to be inside of me."
As a member of the All-Army Volleyball Team, Giraud helped lead the All-Army Team to gold medal finishes in the 2013 and 2014 U.S. Armed Forces Sports - Women's Indoor Volleyball Championships. Competing and going undefeated against Navy and Air Force teams both years.
After winning gold in the U.S. Armed Forces Tournament, May 23, in Phoenix, Ariz. it was on to the 2014 USA Volleyball Open National Championships, also held in Phoenix, May 24 - 28.
There are challenges that Armed Forces Teams face annually at the USAV Open National Championships which Giraud and her teammates refused to let be a factor this year; willing themselves to the championship game.
"We had four weeks to get players in, try them out, select a team, train together and then get to nationals. Our competitors have been playing together for a year. They started training last summer, and have been playing together since leading up to nationals," said Giraud. "We knew going in they've been competing together for 11 to 12 months compared to our four weeks."
Resiliency, discipline and motivation is how the All-Army Team overcame the odds said Giraud.
"What really worked for us was our Army resiliency. Our ability to bounce back after a setback, even when we had lost a game; no other team had that ability to bounce back, that resiliency. Nobody could match us on that. We could regroup, refocus after a setback and bring everything we had to every single match," reflected Giraud.
She continued, "the Army has taught me anything is possible if you work hard enough for it. If you have the discipline, motivation and mental resiliency you can do anything and overcome anything."
As the conversation came to a close, and Giraud proceeded to go back to the daily tasks that awaited her attention once more, she smiled and reflected one more time.
"That championship game was all heart, we wanted it more than the other team. I have never actually seen heart win a game before, and [heart] is what absolutely won that game," said Giraud.
After helping lead the All-Army Volleyball Team to two gold medal finishes in both tournaments, Giraud was named to the 2014 USAV Open National Championships All Tournament Team.