A different angle on coaching

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. J. Paul Croxon
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
As a basketball coach, 1st Lt. Dan Taylor has used a number of techniques to help his teams play better. Speed drills, sprints and fundamentals work are some of the usual tools he uses to help players reach their potential. However, coaching basketball at the Warrior Games here required this communications officer to change his perspective before he could even begin.

Lieutenant Taylor is one of the Air Force coaches helping disabled servicemembers participate in the first Warrior Games that run May 10 through May 14.

Warrior Games athletes play wheelchair basketball. In addition to the obvious difficulty of playing basketball in a seated position, the wounded players have injuries that range from paraplegia to post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The whole (coaching) thing is different," Lieutenant Taylor said. "Everyone's different; different injuries, different skills, so I have to take that into account."

Though the mechanics of the game and the rules may be different, there are many things that remain the same for this coach who played basketball both at the U.S. Air Force Academy Preparatory School and during his education at the Academy.

"At its heart, it's the same game," he said. "Guys are still competitive, guys still want to win and they still want to learn. A lot of them have never played wheelchair basketball before. Some have fresh injuries. Those are the types of guys you work just the fundamentals with. That's the same everywhere in basketball."

As a coach, Lieutenant Taylor is used to motivating people. He said with this team, he's working with players who need no motivation--a fact they show daily by beating the odds in recovering from their injuries.

"They are very easy to coach," he said. "Just seeing these guys and knowing they've made these sacrifices, to go out there and do what they did on the battlefield and to come here and still want to compete, I'm really humbled. You can't take anything for granted."

Lieutenant Taylor is a hands-on coach. He's the kind of guy who runs with his players, shoots with his players and drills with his players. At the Warrior Games, his hands-on approach means strapping himself into a wheelchair.

"I told myself I was going to stay in the chair and practice with them the whole time," he said. "I wanted to get a little perspective. It's definitely difficult. I thought it was easier than it was, but I needed to feel what they feel."