Operation Rebound is a phenomenal program developed by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association and supported by a grant through the Veterans Affairs. The support from the Veterans Affairs provides the NWBA grant for adaptive sports development and introduction. The Operation Rebound program is for active duty service members with disabilities. The program offers a number of services for participants such as coordination of activities and athletic competition, classification of players, training techniques, supplies and equipment along with full introduction into the sport and the assistance to grow and develop within the specific adaptive sport.
Doug Garner, the head coach of the University of Texas-Arlington Men’s Team, is also the lead head coach and instructor of Operation Rebound. Also closely involved with Garner are: Armando Gonzales of San Antonio, Texas; Charles Armstead of Killeen, Texas; and Jason Wakefield of Southlake Texas. All assistants are U.S. military veterans.
The summer program started at the University of Texas-Arlington, July 26-30. Gonzales, 46 years old, has served in the U.S. Military for 24 years. In 2014 on deployment in Iraq an IED went off on his unit when they were on a mountain patrol. The explosion left Gonzales with an numerous injuries. He suffered a traumatic brain injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a herniated disk, torn ACL and other injuries that have required countless hospital visits and surgeries.
In recovery Gonzales found the sport of wheelchair basketball in the Warrior Transition Unit in Fort Hood, Texas. He quickly took to the adaptive sports world and it forced him out of his comfort zone. “I didn’t necessarily think I could play,I can walk but I can’t run or keep up with able-bodied players. I was worried by playing it would lower my ratings and they would put me back into my regular unit. However, it was just the opposite. It was extremely therapeutic and great exercise, as it has helped my body heal, made me healthier, calmer and I personally think its more fun than able-bodied basketball,” said Gonzales. He now plays for the Austin Rec’ers, and has traveled the country paying in the Warrior Games where Army won Gold against Navy and has won four gold medals at the Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Armstead has had a similar experience playing in Operation Rebound and being a part of such a “military friendly” program. Armstead served 17 years before suffering a hip injury, severe nerve damage and multiple spinal infusions. He was first introduced to the sport seven years ago at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, while in rehab. He was encouraged to play and started playing at different camps with the San Antonio Spurs. He admits he was very intrigued by the game and wanted to learn more and get more competitive. The Operation Rebound program allowed him to meet with other veterans to learn and compete at a world class level. He also previously competed in hand cycling but found his love to be wheelchair basketball.
“We have to come together to play and compete at a top level. I’ve had so much fun just learning the game and working really hard at it. I love the game and being able to work on getting better and work on making friends from all over the world. I really enjoy it an it has truly helped me,” said Armstead.
Wakefield served in the U.S. Air Force for nine years before an arm and wrist injury along with a traumatic brain injury that led him to wheelchair basketball. Garner encouraged Wakefield to try it and meet some of the other players – also veterans. He attributes all of the Operation Rebound coaches for giving him the inspiration he needed to start playing. He is one of the newest players, only playing for about the last five months. “I love being able to talk and meet with other veterans, the comradery we have is really beneficial to each and every one of us. The coaches help us enhance our skills and abilities and give us the ability to play with world class athletes. I am fairly new but am having a lot of fun,” said Wakefield.
Douglas is passionate about the military and what Operation Rebound can offer U.S. veterans. After the camp at UTA the program will head to Seattle, Washington, August 10-13, and then finish the 2017 tour in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, September 6-10.
Douglas spoke on what makes Operation Rebound such a unique program, “Part of the value of the Operation Rebound clinics is the opportunity to connect back to a ‘new normal’ for the veterans who are facing an injury or illness. Seeing the participants making new connections on and off the court and finding opportunities to transition into their new lives is very rewarding. Many come back to me months and even years later to tell me that basketball was a key in helping them create a new positive quality of life during their transition process out of the military.”
If interested in attending a clinic submit a completed registration form to Brandon McBeain at firstname.lastname@example.org.