ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Did you know that adaptive reconditioning contributes to a successful recovery for Soldiers, whether they are transitioning back to active duty or to civilian life? In fact, servicemembers who participate in adaptive sports are likely to reap a variety of benefits, which include but are not limited to less stress, reduction of dependency of pain and depression medication, building relationships with others and decreasing body weight and fat.
In the Army, adaptive reconditioning includes any physical activity that wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers participate in regularly to support their physical and emotional well-being. Soldiers are encouraged to start an adaptive reconditioning plan as soon as he or she is cleared by their physical therapist and Triad of Care, according to the Adaptive Reconditioning Branch of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command. However, starting slowly and gradually building, as medical appointments allow, is a best practice.
Lee Whitford, WTB reconditioning adaptive sports coordinator at Fort Bragg, has said that the goal on the installation is to get the Soldiers out of the barracks and into recovery stage.
Some adaptive sports exercises include volleyball and basketball, which aid and speed recovery.
"The challenges in life are many; playing sports gives (adaptive sports) athletes an avenue away from the daily grind and a positive outlet for their athletic prowess," said Uros Davidovic, U.S. Army Sitting Volleyball Team head coach. Adaptive reconditioning provides a valuable opportunity to showcase the resilience and determination of these wounded warriors.
The U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command recognizes the physical and mental benefits of incorporating adaptive sports into the recovery process. Most recently they hosted the fourth annual Joint Services Sitting Volleyball Tournament at the Pentagon, Nov. 20, in conjunction with Warrior Care Month. Teams were comprised of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers, representing the Army, Marines, Air Force, Navy, and Special Operations Command. The atmosphere was exciting, loud and filled with great hope for victory.
"By playing sports, these athletes are exposed daily to choices and decisions they have to make," Davidovic said. "Playing sports is a physically, mentally and emotionally challenging thing. For athletes in the U.S. Army Sitting Volleyball program, they tackle these challenges and they understand the intrinsic and external value of persevering through tough times, on and off the court."
Throughout their recovery, these wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers also pull from and strengthen their resilience.
"Resiliency is mental toughness, perseverance and confidence to face adversity," said retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alfredo De los Santos, player, U.S. Special Operations Command Sitting Volleyball Team. "By being resilient, I have been able to rebuild my strength and endurance while improving my quality of life and set goals for further growth - immensely helping in my recovery, physically, mentally and socially. It’s the most rewarding experience being able to compete despite my disabilities. Without being resilient, I wouldn’t be able to stay focused in my rehabilitation process," he continued.
Sgt. 1st Class Keoki Smythe, player, Army Sitting Volleyball Team, had served in the Army for 18 years before sustaining injuries that were serious enough for him to go before the medical evaluation board. He’s participated in adaptive reconditioning to help him remain positive in the face of change.
"You can find a new norm. You get around the athletes and you see people who are triple amputees and think, if he can do it, he can live a full happy life, what are my excuses," Smythe said. "You find a new norm — an outlet to meet new people who have similar problems, even when they are different."
Davidovic believes resilience is a key factor in the success and growth of members of the team.
"Resiliency is a quality and a continual act. Therefore, it is best described in actions, rather than words. The athletes on the U.S. Army team define resiliency by their actions. It is their deeds, and not their words, that describes resiliency," Davidovic said.
He sees this resilience often during games.
‘"Coach, I am fine wherever you play me,"’ said a player.
"It is this willingness and ability to be flexible and adaptive when asked to perform and support the team. This shows great commitment to the team, and an amazing resilient attitude," Davidovic said.