JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - Divided in half, Wilson Gym screeched with sounds of tennis shoes in motion on both ends of the court, June 9. As the buzzer sounded off after every round during the “Summer Slam,” a new team took over the court in a unified effort not to be eliminated.
Two separate matches played simultaneously on both ends of the court until four of the 12 three-manned teams remained for the final round.
In addition to the sweat dripping down their faces and dribbling balls moving across the court, soldiers displayed their physical stamina and were mentally on their game.
“It’s a huge part of their mental health to be in shape,” said, Aron Bryant, a referee who was at the tournament. Bryant said he also served in the Marine Corps for nine years and knows the benefits of physical fitness for the mind.
Trash talking was heard from courtside during the tournament and was used as a tactic by some competitors who wanted to gain a mental advantage over their opponents to catch them off guard.
Sometimes trash talking can be used in a positive way by building mental toughness.
Although distractions may cause an opponent to get out of their zone by losing focus on their game, it can teach service members how to be prepared when engaging an enemy in combat by training them to focus on the mission instead of mental interferences.
Adapting to tensions during the game was second nature to some players who remained tough-minded on the court, said Bryant adding that this is what led them into the final rounds.
“They are disciplined and were able to stay focused during the games by controlling their emotions, which makes them more of a soldier to me,” said Bryant.
“People that never show emotion, show it out here on the court,” said Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers representative, Spc. Sable Myers who hosted the Summer Slam tournament.
Being physically fit can also improve and equip the body to perform and look good.
“The need to look toned in summer attire usually brings motivation to get physically fit and in shape,” said Myers. “A little basketball tournament can help to do that.”
Players appeared to have one smooth movement when they demonstrated their physical fitness by pushing, shoving, throwing and jumping for the ball.
Some players from the 593rd Special Troops Battalion went a step beyond the competition by physically challenging their bodies by running several miles the morning of the tournament.
Sgt. Bryant Hollaway, a competitor in the tournament, said a member on his team ran seven miles in the morning then joined his teammates to compete in the Summer Slam.
Spc. Trustan Rice, a spectator assigned to the 593rd Special Troops Battalion, said he would have competed in the tournament but sustained an injury after running that morning. Rice added that he went to the tournament to support to his team instead.
While some soldiers experienced disappointment during the games, other competitors had enough confidence to know they would win from the very start.
“Team Rachett”, who plays basketball against each other after work on most days, said, “We knew that we would take first place!”
“The Raiders” came in 2nd and “The Filthy Few” placed 3rd during the final round.
Myers explained that she will host future basketball tournaments during the fall and is excited to contribute to soldiers' morale by providing them an outlet to be productive.
Instead of allowing emotional influences knock them off their game, the competitive nature of soldiers allowed them to endure, compete and win.
Having physical and mental game on the court were critical elements during the games.
“Soldiers are trained to be victorious whether it’s on the court or in battle, and they want to make sure they win because they are trained not to lose,” said Bryant.