Soaring above the net
TORONTO, ON, CANADA
Story by Robert Whetstone
By Robert A. Whetstone and Annette Gomes
U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition
TORONTO – The Team U.S. sitting volleyball squad worked their way to the medal rounds at the 2017 Invictus Games in front of a packed, electrified crowd in the Mattamy Athletics Centre, on September 27. They lost their semi-final match to a methodical Team Georgia. They then set their sights on the bronze medal match against the formidable team from Denmark.
There are aspects of sitting volleyball that make it different from the volleyball most are accustomed to seeing. Besides obviously sitting on the court, matches are played in a best of 3 format, instead of the traditional best of 5; and athletes are classified into one of three categories: open, moderate, and maximum.
The open category is broadly characterized by minor or non-permanent physical disabilities and other illnesses. Moderate players may have lost one thumb and two additional fingers on one hand, a measurable loss of motion in specific joints, or significant balance issues. Maximum category athletes will have complete loss of motor function in a joint, or the inability to move a specific joint based on amputation, paralysis, or other factor. And if you listen to the players, they’ll tell you that you have to keep at least one ‘cheek’ on the floor at all times.
The categories and cheek-to-floor rule does not stop players from soaring above the net and giving an opponent a facial. The action is fast on the smaller playing surface, and players must have cat-quick reflexes, especially at the net. “There were times the ball was going across the net so fast you could hardly keep track of how many times it was struck,” said Master Sgt. Rickey Gulley, of U.S. Army Warrior Care and Transition. “The back and forth of the play was blistering.” During the bronze medal match, play at the net was critical for Team U.S. to earn the victory by a 2 – 0 margin. Team Georgia won the gold medal match against Team U.K. 2 – 0.
More than winning medals, the overarching theme of Invictus Games has been the mere fact of being here with fellow warriors with similar life experiences. “I will always stand by saying that being here, being involved in the Invictus Games and adaptive sports is life changing, and life-saving,” said U.S. Army veteran Randi Hobson.
Hobson said the games and adaptive sports can bring families that may be dealing with difficulties back together and make them stronger. “It shows the competitors, win or lose, regardless of their wound, injury, or illness, they are still completely capable of accomplishing greatness,” she said.
Not only are the players of Team U.S. sitting volleyball soaring over the net, but the entire 81 member squad is soaring higher than they could have imagined. According to Hobson, “Renewing a sense of faith and pride in one’s self can be one of the most powerful forms of healing, and that’s what these games do.”
|Date Posted:||09.29.2017 17:22|
|Location:||TORONTO, ON, CA|