Paralympian Cites Value of Leadership, Teamwork
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
LONDON, Sep. 7, 2012 Leadership and teamwork are two of the primary attributes key to success for current and former service members competing in the 2012 Paralympic Games here, a U.S. Paralympic athlete said Sept. 5.
William Groulx, U.S. wheelchair rugby captain, rolls into position to defend against the British team during the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Sept. 5, 2012. Groulx is a retired U.S. Navy petty officer 2nd class. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Sean M. Worrell
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I learned a lot of things when I was in the military,” said Will Groulx, a member of the 2012 Paralympic wheelchair rugby team. “Probably the biggest thing is teamwork, and then leadership.”
Teamwork practiced in the military carries over to participation in athletics, Groulx said. “We're out here playing a team sport,” he added. “We're a [group] of individually great athletes, but we get out there and we get after it.” The ability to play together as a team is a key to success, but the military has given Paralympic athletes more than that, he said.
“We play hard, we play to win, but we always play with integrity and the sportsmanship that's out there in the game,” he said.
Groulx, a team captain, led his team to a thrilling victory over Great Britain to kick off their quest to defend their 2008 Beijing gold medal campaign. The Portland, Ore., resident talked about the team's first win.
“It was huge,” he said. “We wanted to come out strong and send a message in our first game, and carry that momentum through the rest of the tournament.”
A supportive crowd was helpful, he added. “It was amazing playing in this arena – the crowds, and our fans were there, too, supporting us,” Groulx said. “It was fantastic.”
The team captain said that as a competitive contact sport, rugby is tough -- regardless of whether the players are in wheelchairs.
“I think everyone understands that it’s going to be very physical, a lot of contact [and] a lot of collisions,” Groulx said. “[This] part of the game lends itself to lots of excitement, I think, for people who haven't seen it.
“They can watch it, and just be in the game all the time, because you never know what's going to happen,” he explained. “I was introduced to it, actually, while I was in rehab at [a Veterans Affairs facility].”
The Navy veteran said VA introduced him to a lot of different sports, but he immediately was drawn to rugby.
“The contact, the intensity –- that [attracted] me right away,” he explained. “I fell in love with it.”
Groulx, a self-described adrenaline junkie, said the sport fills that need for him. “You can't help but get pumped up when you're playing,” he added.
He also encouraged wounded warriors to delve into athletics to help their rehabilitation.
“Try everything until you find something that you're passionate about,” he said. “And it doesn't have to be competitive. If you get out there and you're being active and being healthy, that's the important part. I think a lot of us in the military, we have that drive to take it one step further.”
Groulx said his goal, “without a doubt,” is to be at the winner's podium when the competition is over.
“Our biggest challenge here is … every team here is a strong team,” he said. “They all have the ability to be on the podium, so we can't take a day off. We have to know that teams are going to come out and give it their all. We've got to weather that storm, not panic and play [Team] USA rugby the way we all know how to play. And I think we'll be very successful.”
Groulx noted his team has been to the top, winning a gold medal before, but that now, their toughest challenge may lie ahead.
“Winning a gold medal is a hard, hard thing to do,” he said. “I think the only thing tougher is defending a gold medal. You have a lot of pressure – everybody wants what you have. As long as we play our game, we'll be successful.”