Civilian coaches in awe of wounded warrior athletes

Returning for the second time as Warrior Games track and field coaches, Teri Jordan (Navy Safe Harbor) and Brittany Hinchcliffe (U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment) are inspired by their wounded warrior athletes and optimistic about what they are capable of achieving next month in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Coach Teri Jordan, Track & Field – Navy Safe Harbor

Most athletes would be honored to have a Paralympic coach and former American record holder serving as their advisor, but Coach Teri Jordan says of her wounded warrior athletes, “They are so hard-working; it’s been an honor for me to work with them.”

Coach Teri Jordan and Retired Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Nathan Dewalt

Coach Teri Jordan and Retired Navy Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Nathan Dewalt, a competitor in the 2011 Warrior Games.

While working with disabled athletes isn’t new for Teri, working with Military Service members is different from her usual teams.  For more than 20 years, Teri has focused her track and field coaching career on training collegiate athletes at the Universities of Kansas and Texas at Austin. Currently, she coaches at Penn State, where she oversees the Ability Athletics program for disabled athletes. But it was her experience working with American Paralympic athlete, Iraq veteran and Army wounded warrior Kortney Clemons that exposed her to the strength and buoyancy of wounded warrior athletes.

“These guys are just, wow!” said Teri. “I see how they take their challenge and don’t see it as a challenge anymore. They are living with it, dealing with it and moving forward.”

While she doesn’t get to train with her athletes in person regularly, Teri stays on top of training by sending weight lifting and running workouts for the warriors to work on independently. Her team will compete against the other Services in events including the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 1500 meter dash track events, as well as the shot put and discus field events.

Teri isn’t only inspired by the wounded warrior athletes as their coach, but she says, “It’s an inspiration to see changes in their lives…they’re your athlete, but also your friend.”

She is looking forward to watching her friends bring home even more medals than last year. In fact, doubling the medals is her goal.

“I’m very optimistic,” Teri said.

 Coach Brittany Hinchcliffe, Shot put and Discus – Wounded Warrior Regiment

The tenacity and natural talent of those competing for the Wounded Warrior Regiment shot put and discus team is what has Coach Brittany Hinchcliffe stating, “This program is a coach’s dream come true.”

Brittany, a former collegiate competitor and Olympic hopeful in the hammer throw, says that she has vast coaching experience, but working with wounded, ill and injured Service members is a completely different culture coming from civilian life.

Coach Brittany Hinchcliffe assists a wounded warrior athlete during the 2012 Marine Corps Warrior Games Trials

Coach Brittany Hinchcliffe assists a wounded warrior athlete during the 2012 Marine Corps Warrior Games Trials, which were held in February.

“The athletes take direction so well and are so willing to try new things,” she said. “They have no fear and civilians struggle with that.”

The shot put and discus competitions require Brittany to coach both standing and seated throwers – an adaptation made in the Warrior Games so that athletes are competing against people with similar abilities. Though sometimes, the boundaries set by these classifications are wiped out because the athletes are just that incredible, Brittany said. She cited the story of one of the team’s seated throwers who would have placed in the top five for the standing category in last year’s competition.

In addition to ensuring the athletes are confident in their ability whether they are in a wheelchair or visually impaired, keeping communication open has also been important for Brittany’s team as they train all over the country. The distance doesn’t seem to be a problem, though as Brittany says she has to “rein them in instead of motivating them.”

Brittany’s work doesn’t stop between the trials and actual games. She handles equipment needs, contacts local facilities about availability, and also takes advantage of new technology to provide long-distance coaching. For example, her athletes videotape their training sessions and upload the videos to YouTube for her review and feedback.

Despite what level or classification her athletes compete at, Brittany says she sees improvement all around.

“I’ve seen it over and over again. I witness athletes talking about limitations and surgeries switch to future goals and forward thinking,“ she said. “There are a lot of reconditioning programs but to really see something come together that shows a change in people – is incredible.”