Adaptive Sports Transforms Soldiers

By MaryTherese GriffinApril 14, 2023

Spc. Ethan Barrera shoots an arrow with his mouth. He learned this adaptation to archery at the Army Adaptive Sports Camp.
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Amber Strittmatter (left) is all smiles cheering on Soldier Athletes alongside Sgt. (right) Kaylin McClendon in power lifting at the 2023 Army Adaptive Sports Camp.
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To “adapt” means to make something suitable for a new use or purpose or to become adjusted to new conditions. Soldiers in the Army Recovery Care Program learn to adapt every day, especially through adaptive sports.

April is Adaptive Sports Month, and the US Army hosted an Adaptive Sports camp at Fort Bragg for 71 Soldiers who are wounded ill or injured.

“Adaptive sports help soldiers physically and mentally. It can help a Soldier come out of their shell and see what they are capable of doing,” said Amber Strittmatter, Physical Therapy Assistant at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“The difference between this camp and the Army Trials is the Soldiers may not have ever tried a sport before, but they can learn about it and the proper way to do it adaptively by the coaches here,” said Strittmatter.

She admits having a bird’s eye view over the past seven years of her involvement in Team Army sporting events, solidifies in her mind the need for adaptive sports with today’s Soldiers. “The coaches here do a really good job of showing the body positions and techniques that they can use within the body to get in the best position to perform well not only in the sport but going forward in life.”

She goes on to explain that adaptive sports is crucial in the mental arena too. “It’s getting them out of that mindset of what they can’t do and showing them what they can do. So many are going through a new norm due to an injury or illness and to help get them out of their head and showing the, they can succeed is the best victory.”

Spc. Ethan Barrera found his own victory lane at this year’s Army Adaptive Sports Camp with archery. “I think it’s awesome that I’m not able to use my hand but yet I can still perform in archery by adapting and using my mouth,” said Barrera who lost the use of his dominant hand in a car accident.

Barrera learned how to shoot an arrow from a bow with his mouth in just a few hours at Army Adaptive Sports Camp. He discovered he’s an exceptionally good shot. “I’m excited I can actually do this!”

Helping Soldiers in the physical therapy world for Strittmatter is the best but she enjoys cheering them on at adaptive sporting events. “I love watching the transformation of going from a Soldier into this athletic role where they get to compete.”

40 Soldiers from this year’s Army Adaptive Sports Camp will represent the Army at the Warrior Games Challenge in Coronado, CA this June.