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Wheelchair basketball saved my life

Australian Army veteran Brendan Hardman said he is privileged to represent Australia at Warrior Games 2019. Brendan is competing in sitting volleyball, swimming and wheelchair basketball.

Sport is a constant fixture in Brendan’s life. He competes in the National Wheelchair Basketball League with the Red Dust Heelers. We asked Brendan to share his favourite moments of Invictus Games Sydney 2018, his aspirations for Warrior Games 2019 and his advice for veterans…

Having been to an Invictus Games before, what are you most looking forward to?

Last year I had the opportunity to compete at the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 (IG2018). It was an incredible experience and I was honoured to be selected to again represent my country at the Warrior Games this year in Tampa. The competition with the US veterans is always fierce, however their mateship and willingness to open their arms and welcome other nations is always second to none. There are a few things I am looking forward to for Warrior Games this year. The first is that I am once again looking forward to representing my country – whether it be in uniform whilst serving or playing sport, there is no greater feeling than representing your country and it is always something that I hold close to my heart. The second is that I am looking to once again challenging myself and my abilities. I am taking on swimming on top of sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball and I will be captain/coach of the wheelchair basketball team.

What lessons have you learnt / momentum did you take from IG2018?

I certainly learnt a lot about my basketball game which has pushed me to train harder for these Games and for my upcoming basketball season in the National Wheelchair Basketball League. I also learnt how important it is to get out and meet other people, from veterans to volunteers, it doesn’t matter. Something I struggled with before Invictus Games was getting out and meeting new people and actually being present in those situations, rather than being closed off and isolated. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone really helped me and it has propelled me along that journey of healing.

What’s been your toughest experience with the Red Dust Heelers in the Wheelchair Basketball League so far?

Playing in the National Wheelchair Basketball League is awesome, I have such a great team that has become family to me, but there is also a large reality check when you enter the League. The speed of the game is incredibly fast, at least twice, maybe three times faster than it is at the Invictus/Warrior Games level, and each game you are guaranteed to be playing against some of the best players in the world. The hardest challenge for me is maintaining consistency at that level and being able to use my size to impact the game when I am on court. Learning wheelchair basketball is always a “jump in the deep end” situation. Being a developing player at this level is like jumping into an ocean whilst drinking from a fire hose.

If you could pass a message on to other veterans out there what would it be?

What I am most looking forward to is seeing the effect that an event like Warrior Games has on my team mates who haven’t been before, or may be struggling, and seeing how they apply what they learn when they return back to their local communities. Events like Warrior Games are an incredible experience, but it’s how you apply what you learnt back in your local communities that matters most to me. Seeing veterans go home and actually start to get out of the house again, maybe take up a sport, maybe get themselves back into work, this is what matters most to me and Veteran Sport Australia is doing an incredible job at providing pathways for veterans to do this – to get involved in sport again in your local community. If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, I can’t do this, I can tell you that you’re categorically wrong! Just two years ago I had reached the lowest point in my life and getting involved in community sport again, in my case wheelchair basketball, saved my life. Now I am playing at the highest level in Australia and representing my country for a second time. All it takes is one step to get your life back on track and then it is just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and continuing that momentum.

Photo Credit: Jayson Tufrey