Jacksonville, Florida - The Team Navy trials for the 2018 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games kick off tomorrow, at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Mayport, where over 70 seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coastguardsmen will compete for a spot to represent the Navy in this year's DoD Warrior Games.
Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor (NWW-SH) and NAVSTA Mayport are hosting the trials, in which athletes will qualify in eight adaptive sports: archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field. The top-performing athletes will fill 40 competitive spots and five alternative spots on Team Navy.
"We hope the trials and the DoD Warrior Games pull athletes out of whatever they may be struggling with," said Lt. Cmdr. Therese Pederson, Navy Region Southeast Warrior Games Trials coordinator. "We hope this gives them something to focus on while achieving success in a sport that they may not have thought they could do before."
Both first time and returning athletes from all over the country will be competing in the trials to participate in sports they're familiar with while also trying their hands in sports they've never attempted.
"I've always been active and athletic," said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Cassidy Busch, a first-time Team Navy athlete. "I've really missed getting to be involved in sports and fitness like I was before, and the DoD Warrior Games just kind of fell into my lap as a way for me to be better and push myself at something new and exciting."
The Team Navy athletes, their families and caregivers arrived in Jacksonville Feb. 16, for informational events before beginning training for the trials. The athletes trained until the trials, then go into competition mode to earn their spot in the various sports until the final day of the trials Feb. 24.
"This is something that pushes me mentally and physically," said Busch. "We're all doing things adaptively that we may have never even tried before and it makes you utilize your mind and body in a different way than an able-bodied person would attempt the same thing, but the people here really make it a bonding experience as a healing process we're all going through together."
With athletes competing at NAVSTA Mayport's fitness facilities, and the nearby Hannah Park, Fletcher High School and Jacksonville University, many local spectators are expected to attend the events to show their support.
"The important thing is that athletes get to become part of a team again," said Meagan McAllister, an adaptive athletics coordinator. "Many have been in places where they feel isolated, so it's important that they're around their Navy family and community in a fun team-building environment. I think this environment can show these athletes how much hope they have around them."
After the conclusion of the trials, active duty service members and veterans representing teams from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as the Australian Defence Force and the United Kingdom Armed Forces, will go head to head at the DoD Warrior Games at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 2-9.
The DoD Warrior Games is an annual event recognizing the importance adaptive sports plays in the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Participation in the DoD Warrior Games allows service members and veterans to build a supportive social network and develop relationships with other athletes, giving them a sense of community on their path to recovery.
"These events provide a unique sense of purpose and camaraderie," said Pederson. "They are helping service members interact and compete with people who are in similar situations, and we ultimately hope that they feel supported and build important relationships that they can take with them after this to further build their support network."
(NWW-SH) is the Navy's sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and providing resources and support to their families. The program provides individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of the wounded warrior's recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activities.