Wheelchairs level playing field for wounded warriors
March 26, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- Basketball is a competitive sport, a sport where someone always has an edge. Maybe it's the guy who towers above the rest at 6-foot 5, or the short, lightning-quick guard who slices through opponents, nutmegging and no-look passing. But what if you take the height and fancy footwork out of the game?
The Warrior Transition Battalion-Europe has done just that with an innovative way to level the playing field -- by adding wheels.
Soldiers from Warrior Transition units around Europe gathered at the Grafenwoehr Physical Fitness Center, here, March 14, for a friendly game of wheelchair basketball, where, according to Sgt. Jason Livingston, Charlie Co., Schweinfurt, everyone had to relearn the game.
"You really have no depth perception when you're in the chair," he explained. "You can't utilize the backboard like you once did, because you might not be able to reach it."
"It keeps things interesting," Livingston added, smiling.
The idea behind adaptive sports such as wheelchair basketball is to involve all Soldiers currently transitioning to focus on ability, not disability, according to the Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Michael Richardson.
While none of the players currently need a wheelchair off the court, the Soldiers suffer from varying degrees of mobility. Many cannot run, jump or participate in high-stress activities.
"But they can wheel themselves across the court," said Richardson. "They can play this game."
The round-robin competition placed Alpha, Bravo and Charlie companies against each other in a total of four rounds.
Each game had a good mix of jovial posture and good ole fashion heckling that comes with any sport.
Cheering ("Shoot, shoot, you can make it!") and jeering (the drawn out "aaaaair ball") echoed throughout the fitness center.
The final round brought Charlie and Alpha companies face-to-face. Charlie was deemed the underdog, but proved victorious with a 14-12 win.
"It feels great to win," said Staff Sgt. George Haddock from Bamberg. "It means we're a team."
Despite a few bumps and bruises, the game brought back the competitive nature that Soldiers can't resist.
"It feels phenomenal to be back in the game," said Haddock. "It's competitive, you try to do your best, you try to win."
Richardson shared Haddock's sentiment.
"They're Soldiers, they want to win. They enjoy the competition," said Richardson. "Adaptive sports can give them the outlet they need."
"And it's a lot fun," added Haddock. "It really is fun."
The basketball game was the third match in a four-match adaptive sport series where winners vie for the coveted Commander's Cup. Having tried their hand at seated volleyball and archery, the Soldiers will participate in a swimming competition next month in Vicenza, Italy.