Sitting Update: Men's camp key to Rio prep

By Karen Patterson (karen.patterson@usav.org) | May 11, 2016, 2:14 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 11, 2016) – An improved offensive attack and team chemistry are two of the building blocks that will be key to success at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics for the U.S. Men’s Sitting Team.

Head Coach Greg Walker and his coaching staff plan to focus on those areas during this weekend’s team training camp.

“It’s going to be the most intense training camp we’ve ever had. It’s also the most holistic.” Walker said. “I’m really going to be looking for a team buy-in this weekend. The guys have been working hard on their volleyball IQ, and we’ll be working on intentionally attacking the ball to score points, not just getting lucky.”

The training block is the first time the entire Men’s Sitting Team will be together since March’s Intercontinental Cup in Anji, China. During that tournament, the men’s team finished 0-6 against other Rio-qualified teams.

“Rio is right around the corner and creeping up on us really fast, so I hope we can execute this weekend,” outside hitter J. Dee Marinko said.

sitRio Pools Announced
On May 6, the U.S. Sitting Teams officially learned their Paralympic competition when pools for sitting volleyball were announced.

The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team, ranked No. 2 in the world and No. 3 in the Paralympic standings – Brazil automatically received the No. 1 seed in both men’s and women’s competitions – will face world No. 1 China, Iran and Rwanda.

The U.S. Men’s Sitting Team will place host-nation Brazil, Egypt and Germany.

Following the April 21 announcement of the updated world and Paralympic rankings, Women’s Head Coach Bill Hamiter said there were few surprises when the pools were announced.

“We like the position we’re in. If we play as we should, it should hopefully propel us to get into the finals,” Hamiter said. “At this point, we’re just trying to get the statistical information that we’d like from playing these teams (at the Intercontinental Cup).”

The U.S. Women’s Sitting Team swept both Iran and Rwanda during the Intercontinental Cup, also defeating China twice—once in pool play and again in the gold medal match. China topped the U.S. for the gold medal at both the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics.

Walker agreed with Hamiter’s favorable assessment, adding he hopes recent experience against all three teams will help drive the Men’s Sitting Team.

“It really couldn’t have fallen any better, to be honest,” he said. “I know the guys are feeling about it and feel it gives us the best chance to make the medal round if we train hard enough.

“Our pool is going to be extremely competitive, but I think that helps us because anything can happen.”

sitRoad to Rio stops in Oklahoma City
More than a dozen members of the U.S. Sitting Teams spent their Mother’s Day weekend helping build excitement for this year’s Olympics and Paralympics.

The sitting team athletes were among many Team USA participants during Team USA’s Road to Rio campaign stop in Oklahoma City on Saturday and Sunday. Held in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for canoe/kayak/slalom, the event included a sitting volleyball scrimmage and autograph session each day.

“This was my first big public, non-tournament event and I didn’t really know what to expect,” Josh Smith (Riverside, California) said. “People were excited to meet members of the team, and were really trying to understand the sport and what was going on as we were playing. It was definitely encouraging.”

U.S. Sitting Volleyball wins Invictus Games
The U.S. Invictus Games Sitting Volleyball Team topped the United Kingdom 2-1 (25-21, 25-27, 15-8) for the 2016 gold medal on Tuesday; the United Kingdom won the inaugural London Invictus Games in 2014.

The U.S. team was a perfect 5-0 in the tournament, sweeping Canada and Australia in pool play on Saturday before defeating France and the Netherlands in the quarter- and semifinals, respectively.

Inspired by the United States’ Warrior Games, Prince Harry created the Invictus Games in 2014 to provide wounded servicemen and women from around the world an opportunity to compete and represent their country in sports. This year’s Games began on Sunday and conclude Thursday in Orlando, Florida.

Among the athletes competing for the United States were Brett Parks, Nicholas Dadgostar, Robbie Gaupp, Steve Davis and Javier Rodriguez, all of whom are members of the USA Volleyball Sitting Program's A2 training team. 

Other USA Volleyball participation included U.S. Women’s Sitting Team’s Kari Miller (Washington D.C.) who was an assistant coach for the team and U.S. Sitting Volleyball Coordinator Elliot Blake, who oversaw the sitting volleyball competition. Additionally, multiple international sitting volleyball referees and high-ranking USA Volleyball officials served as officials and score-keepers.

“This was a really smart, talented team,” Miller said. “I’ve been doing Warrior Games forever, and there’s always players from other teams you wish you could steal. When you put them all together, it’s amazing.”