Standing or sitting, the volleyball is still bumped, set, and spiked

WTU Force Structure Sitting volleyball assessments began in the Soto gymnasium during the Army Warrior Care and Transition's Army Trials at Fort Bliss, Texas, April 3. About 80 wounded, ill and injured active-duty Soldiers and veterans are competing in eight different sports April 2-6 for the opportunity to represent Team Army at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Robert A. Whetstone)

By Robert A. Whetstone, Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs

FORT BLISS, Texas -- Gravity is the great equalizer for elements on earth. Just like gravity, the gym floor plays the same role in sitting volleyball. Everyone is nearly eye-to-eye, straining muscles unfamiliar to them, and at the same time, battling to spike a ball into the face of an opponent.

The sitting volleyball assessments took place April 3 and 5 during the Army Warrior Care and Transition Army Trials. The trials were hosted by Fort Bliss, Texas, April 2-6 to give about 80 wounded, ill and injured active-duty Soldiers and veterans the opportunity to be selected to Team Army. The team will compete against the other services at the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in eight different sports.

Athletes participate in sitting volleyball are classified into one of three categories for team play (Open, Moderate, 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.

According to 2017 DoD Warrior Games classification, a minimum of two maximum disability athletes are required to play at all times. Only two open or moderate disability athletes may play at any time. The playing area is smaller than volleyball mainstream athletes are accustomed to. The dimensions are 10 meters by 6 meters and the net is lower to the ground.

In sitting volleyball, a player must have a part of their upper body in contact with the floor when they contact the ball. Staff Sgt. Marcus Menchaca, from the Warrior Transition Unit, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas was a first time sitting volleyball participant during assessments. "It's more challenging," explained Menchaca. "It is more difficult using all of your appendages to get into strategic positions to be able to move the ball to your teammates. Making sure you are seated was the most difficult rule to adapt to."

There are some participants who have volleyball experience that find sitting volleyball equally exciting. U.S. Army veteran Sgt. Daniel Shegog, of St. Louis, Missouri played volleyball in high school and offers a fresh perspective on the game. "The biggest difference in sitting volleyball is you have to be more aware of floor movements," said Shegog. "In some ways, sitting volleyball is more intense."

Adjustments and adapting is second nature to the Soldier and veteran athletes at this year's Army Trials. Just like in mainstream volleyball, some rules remain the same, but being seated makes them a little more difficult to adhere to. "The hardest rule is making sure I don't touch the net," laughed Shegog. "It's easier to touch the net if you're not careful. Being a big guy with long arms, if I go for a block, I can end up touching the net and the ball at the same time."

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