FORT HOOD, Texas -- The air in the gym is thick and the only sounds are the air conditioning vents blowing from the ceiling, shining down like outsized opaque crystal balls.
Suddenly, the echoes of basketballs bouncing off the wood floor rumble through the bleachers. Whoosh, goes a ball through the net.
The All-Army Women's Basketball Team has come to play.
Soldiers from all around the Army, including some from Fort Hood, were selected to be part of the All-Army Women's Basketball Team from October to November 2017. The AAWBT ended their season in second place among the Armed Forces Women's Basketball teams.
Some team members have been playing the sport since they were children.
"I started playing basketball when I was six," said Spc. Alexia Sanders, a point guard and member of the 15th Financial Management Support Unit, 1st Cavalry Sustainment Brigade, at Fort Hood. "I used to play with my dad in the front yard, and that's how I fell in love with 'b-ball.'"
The love of one of America's greatest pastimes was the head coach's driving factor to try out for a position on the AAWBT.
"I started playing basketball in 1987," said Maj. Michael Meyers, a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 120th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division West, at Fort Hood. "Sport helped me deal with adjustments post-deployment, and it's been a great way to maintain resiliency.
"I tried out for the position of head coach twice," said Meyers, a native of Tacoma Park, Maryland. "The most challenging part was the application process and running a fair and open tryout."
Three-a-day practices have aided in the team having a successful season; their current record is 4-3.
"We practiced two times a day for about three hours and a third practice at night to watch films," said Capt. Louise VandenBosch, a team co-captain and member of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Theater Sustainment Command, at Fort Knox, Kentucky. "This was helpful, because I haven't played since 2011. I had to figure out how to play competitive basketball again."
Playing on the team has fulfilled a dream for Sanders.
"The initial trial camp was hard. I was competing against 22 other female athletes for a 12-woman team," said Sanders a native of Slidell, Louisiana. "I stay focused on being the best player I can be in the midst of a competitive environment to make my dream come true of being on the AAWBT."
Team members find inspiration and motivation in similar sources.
"My family inspired me every day, and they were the force that drove me to succeed," VandenBosch said. "I imagined that they were with me when I played my 'Go' playlist before the games to get my mind where it needs to be before stepping onto the court."
"My parents motivated me daily," Sanders said. "Coming from a small town, I felt that it was easy to get stuck in the system and stay stagnant in life. I prayed and listened to music before every warm-up to remain humble for this opportunity."
Being on the road for games and away from everyday life can be a struggle, but the players who are chasing the All-Army dream have found family along the way, Meyers said.
"In the huddle before every game, we put our hands in and shout our motto: '1-2-3-team! 4-5-6-family!'"