By Air Force Staff Sgt. J. Paul Croxon
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
May 12, 2010 - As a basketball coach, Air Force 1st Lt. Dan Taylor has used a number of techniques to help his teams play better. Speed drills, sprints and fundamentals work are routine tools he uses to help players reach their potential. However, coaching basketball at the Warrior Games required this communication officer to change his perspective before he could even begin.
Warrior Games athletes play wheelchair basketball, among other sports. In addition to the obvious difficulty of playing basketball in a seated position, the players have injuries that range from paraplegia to post-traumatic stress disorder.
"The whole [coaching] thing is different," 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, many things remain the same for this coach, who played basketball at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School and during his education at the academy.
"At its heart, it's the same game," Taylor 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, Taylor is used to motivating people. But the players on the Air Force's Warrior Games team need no motivation, Taylor said. His players, he said, routinely maintain can-do attitudes and perseverance as part of beating the odds in recovering from their injuries.
"They are very easy to coach," Taylor 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."
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."