(April 14, 2016) – Across the globe, thousands of athletes are readying themselves for what may be the biggest competition of their careers: The 2016 Olympic or Paralympic Games.
For qualified teams, such as the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Sitting Teams, the final months before the Paralympics present the opportunity to fine-tune training, implement new offensive systems and mentally prepare for a tournament four years in the making.
Based at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma, the U.S. Sitting Teams train from 7-9 a.m. every Monday through Friday. About 20 athletes currently live and train full time in Edmond, including U.S. Women’s Sitting Team middle blocker Monique Burkland (Ardmore, Oklahoma).
Burkland moved to Edmond shortly after making the Sitting National Team roster in 2010. She helped the Women’s Sitting Team win a silver medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London and the 2014 World Championships in Elblag, Poland. Most recently, Burkland started all eight matches during the World ParaVolley Intercontinental Cup in March, totaling 45 kills, 11 blocks and nine aces.
Now, Burkland is giving fans an inside look at daily life as she and her teammates prepare for the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics.
“Who is up this early?!”
The sitting teams have an early start each day so the maximum number of athletes can attend practice. In addition to training full time, many of the athletes take classes from University of Central Oklahoma, work or have families with young children. In-resident athletes are allowed only one missed practice each month.
“My wake-up call an hour before my alarm goes off in the morning.”
“I always eat a light breakfast before practice.”
Most days Burkland and her teammates have light traffic, although they also beat the sun to work.
The University of Central Oklahoma has housed the U.S. Sitting Volleyball program for about 10 years. There are six sitting courts at the recreational facility. The team uses two courts on a daily basis.
After practice it’s off to the weight room for additional strength and conditioning.
Even professional athletes have to pump their own gas…
“Too much laundry!”
Many of the Sitting Team athletes live in housing provided by the University of Central Oklahoma. Some athletes room together, while others live alone or with a significant other or spouse.
In addition to training with the U.S. Sitting teams, Burkland works at Dick’s Sporting Goods as a member of the Team USA Contender’s Program. Doing laundry, cleaning and relaxing fill her days off.
“Video games while I wait for the laundry; don’t mind if I do!”
“Dinner! :)” And then it’s off to bed by 9 p.m. so Burkland is energized and refreshed to start the process all over the next day.