Army athletes go for the gold at sitting volleyball camp and tournament

WTU Force Structure CAPTION: The U.S. Army's sitting volleyball team takes on the Sport Court USA team at the 2017 USA Volleyball Open National Championships (Photo Credit: Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Warrior Care and Transition)

By Whitney Delbridge Nichels, Army Warrior Care and Transition

Minneapolis, MN - Since 1928, USA Volleyball has been giving athletes from all over the world the chance to go head to head on the court. The U.S. Army’s sitting volleyball team is doing just that at the 2017 USA Volleyball Open National Championships.

More than 400 teams traveled from every corner of the U.S., as well as Canada, Brazil and Russia, for the three-day camp and tournament. Organizers say the event is open to any team that believes it has what it takes to win.

Standing teams are grouped by gender, age and skill level, and they play through preliminary pools and brackets to determine the top team.

Team Army, led by coach Linda Gomez, is one of 10 sitting volleyball squads competing. On practice day, the team got a glimpse of what they were up against during a practice match against other players and military veterans.

Coach Gomez says the chance to play against some of the top competitors in the world does not come around often, and she believes Team Army can hold their own.

“We’re scoring against Paralympic and national players, so we’re very proud of ourselves,” said Gomez.

For the athletes, many of whom will be representing Team Army at Warrior Games, it’s not just about bragging rights.

“I love being here with my friends. That’s the whole reason why I do any of this. We get to compete together and be together. The camaraderie is amazing,” said Sgt. Patrick Timmins.

In addition to the lasting bonds, it’s a chance for some athletes to get back to what they loved before becoming injured, ill or wounded. That’s the case for Spc. Jarred Vania.

“It helps me move forward. I was a volleyball player before my incident, and I thought I’d never get to participate in these kinds of events. Now I get to continue playing, “ said Vania.