Soldier Uses Sports to Stay Resilient, Motivated

Wheelchair basketball game during Warrior Games
Army Reserve Spc. Sydney Davis takes a shot during the Wheelchair Basketball championship at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., on June 20, 2016. (Sgt. 1st Class Joel Quebec/314th Theater Public Affairs Support Element)

EL PASO, Texas -- Drive, camaraderie and a chance to be an athlete again drove one Army specialist from her hospital room to the archery range, track field and courts here to compete during the Army Trials.

Army Reserve Spc. Sydney Davis, a former volunteer firefighter turned medical laboratory technician, participated during the Army Trials, March 28 through April 3, on Fort Bliss, Texas. The trials were held to determine who will compete as part of the Army team during the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 19-28, on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

During the Army Trials, Davis competed in shot put, discus, recurve archery, air rifle, air pistol, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. Showing her competitive spirit, she garnered a gold medal in recurve bow in archery, the bronze medal in air rifle, a silver medal in discus and a silver medal in shot put. She said her wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball teams also did well.

In high school, Davis made it to state competition for discus and shot put and made it to state all four years for basketball. She just started archery two months ago. She moved away from competitive sports after high school, but within the last few months, she has re-engaged to help with post-traumatic stress. She is serving on the Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion, or WTB, in Virginia.

"Sports have done a lot for me," she said. "It gives me something to look forward to, and it brings a bunch of people, who go through the same things, together. We all support each other. We're competing, but at the end of the day, we're all one team. I've given pep talks to several people; several people have given me pep talks. Everybody here is clapping for everyone and telling them they can do it. It's been invaluable. We're all in it for the Army, one team."

Davis said adaptive sports have shown her that she is resilient.

"Bouncing back, going through something that, to you, is personally traumatizing and being able to overcome, and I've been doing that through these sports. These give me self-worth and confidence," she said with an ever-present smile. "When you join a WTB, you feel like you're a broken soldier, and you don't really feel like you can put out as much as a normal person could. I don't like feeling flawed; nobody does. But when I'm able to do this and show what I can do, it pumps me up. Just because I took a step backward does not mean I can't keep going forward."

Davis encourages anybody, who may be discouraged, to give adaptive sports a try, especially at the local level.

"One time, that's all it takes. That's what I did," she said passionately. "I was in the barracks, alone, watching television every day -- just depressed. Everybody kept pushing me to get out and try stuff. I told them I didn't have any energy. I was like, 'I'm just going to pity myself in here.' And one time, that's all it took. I went out and started archery ... and it's addicting. When you realize you want to do something and you're good at it, it gives you that purpose and that drive. One day at a time, you get better and better, and soon you're competing at a level like this and hopefully the Paralympics."

Davis also encourages anybody considering trying out for the Army Trials next year to give it a shot.

"When I first got to the Army Trials, I thought I was alone," she said. "I had doubts about myself. I didn't think I was good enough or strong enough. But there are so many friends and support. I'm not alone, and neither are you."

She also said the coaches have been phenomenal.

"The coaches were fantastic," Davis said. "They're first class. These coaches know what they're doing. It was an honor to have them come out and help us."

The final selections for the Army team, which will compete during the DOD Warrior Games, should be announced later this month. Throughout the games, wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard will compete in track and field, shooting, swimming, cycling, archery, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

Also participating in the games will be competitors from U.S. Special Operations Command and a team from the British military.

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