Stars & Stripes: Sports for Service

by Niko Hajimihalis

The men and women of the United States military make the ultimate sacrifice by putting their country before themselves. Unfortunately, military veterans often have a difficult time acclimating back into civilian life, especially when their service results in injury. The Injured Military Veteran Adaptive Sport Program Development Creative Inquiry project aims to help support these veterans. The team, led by Dr. Skye Arthur-Banning in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, offers programs for injured veterans that in turn provides coaching certification to participants so they can offer adaptive sports programs in their own communities.

The Creative Inquiry students work with graduate students to collect and analyze data related to the impact of these programs. The team evaluates past camp experiences and assesses how veterans integrate information from the Clemson program into their community programs. Collecting data for evaluating past and present camps is a key to their success. “They assist in collecting data, organizing the event, planning the camp’s curriculum, facilitating travel, and researching community reintegration for injured military veterans,” Arthur-Banning says.

Recruiting military veterans is the greatest obstacle for the team. Currently, the majority of recruitment is done through word of mouth; although some students have been able to travel to military bases and other cities to talk to members of the military community. These trips also allow students to evaluate community implemented programs, as well as offer those programs additional support and resources.

One of the programs the Creative Inquiry project supports is The Paralympic Soccer program. This program is funded by a grant from the Department of Veteran Affairs. The grant supports research and camp activities, including the cost of flying veterans across the country to attend the camps at Clemson. The team recently started hosting camps in other cities—Phoenix and Seattle.

In the future, Arthur-Banning hopes that the Creative Inquiry project can partner with established Veterans Affairs supported games and events such as the Invictus Games or Warrior Games. Since United States military veterans sacrifice for their country, the Creative Inquiry team wants to do everything they can to support them as they acclimate post-service.