August 31st, 2022 | Josh Adelman

Soldiers To Sidelines congratulates the inaugural adaptive sports coaching class on certifying as Adaptive Sports Soldier Coaches. The seminar was powered by the Wounded Warrior Project and supported by Amazon Military enabling the entire program to be free for service members, veterans, military spouses, and Gold Star families. It was an inspirational week of deep educational content that prepared everyone to be more accommodating to the needs of adaptive athletes. The central themes were empathy and listening.

So often, as coaches, we approach our athletes from an instructional position. Meaning, we instruct our athletes what to do, and then they do it. This week we learned that in adaptive sports, it is better to listen to our athletes first, let them show us what they can do, and then advise based on their input and our knowledge of motion and movement.

Needless to say, we spent much of the time exploring many of the foundations of motion and movement guided by Soldiers To Sidelines Director of Adaptive Sports, Dr. Theresa Larson. Dr. Larson is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, former professional softball player, Villanova University All-American, and founder of Movement Rx.

In addition to Soldiers To Sidelines signature presentations on coaching high human skills, Dr. Larson introduced us to Adaptations, Inclusion, and Wounds 101. After establishing this foundational knowledge of the adaptive space, she guided the class through fundamental training considerations for the adaptative athlete. She brought it all home by leading an adaptive training empathy workshop, where participants had the opportunity to experience the world of various adaptive athletes. All her amazing content was delivered directly from her proprietary coursework offered by several colleges.

All of this knowledge was then contextualized from amazing real-life stories of two elite adaptive athletes, Gretchen Evans and Sarah Rudder. Gretchen, former U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major, was severely wounded in combat when a mortar exploded near her, causing tremendous physical injury and hearing loss. She told her story of how she actualized her grit from this experience and formed an adventure race team named Team Unbroken, a team of mixed-ability athletes who outperformed all expectations. Sarah inspired us with her story of how she shattered her ankle while carrying bodies out of the Pentagon for 24 hours straight on 9/11. The injury was so bad that multiple surgeries could not fix her leg. Ultimately she made the choice to amputate and then went on to become a world-class para-athlete. These two role models are living examples of resiliency and the power of adaptive coaching.

Finally, we got to take a deep dive into a couple of adaptive sports. Coach Shawn Maloney of USA Lacrosse and USA Wheelchair lacrosse gave us an inside look into the rules, techniques, and scheme of wheelchair lacrosse. Coach James Sa played a similar role in teaching us about wheelchair rugby. Coach Sa delivered his profound presentation from the Warrior Games in Orlando, Florida, where he competed as a player/coach. His Navy wheelchair rugby team took home a silver medal at the games.

Soldiers To Sidelines is honored and humbled to welcome this inaugural adaptive sports coaching class to the STS tribe!