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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Just Call Him Coach

National Veterans Wheelchair Games

Coach Paul Welty in a huddle with his team at the 2011 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Some things are just meant to be. For Paul Welty, a teacher at Shaler Area Middle School in Glenshaw, Pa., one such thing was volunteering for the Games—a decision that unexpectedly catapulted him from volunteer to coach.

After finishing an eight-hour shift on Tuesday, Welty, a Marine Veteran, went down to watch the first round of basketball that night. As he stood on the sidelines, a ball rolled by him. Another one followed.

“No one was rebounding for the guys, so I decided to,” Welty recalled.

After five minutes of silent rebounding, an official walked up and asked the players who their coach was.

“Him,” team member Willie Harvey said.

“I looked around a bit and then realized they were pointing at me,” said Welty, who happens to be a former college basketball coach. “I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it.’”

Things moved quickly after that, as the accidental coach called a team huddle. His first question: What do we do?

In minutes, the Veterans schooled him on the rules. One of the more seasoned players selected the starting five. Welty then spent the first half getting up to speed.

“We hung in there,” he said, “but I was flying by the seat of my pants.”

In the next team huddle before the secondhalf, Welty had some strategy for his athletes: Keep the middle plugged, watch the picks, play hard defense.

“You got it, Coach,” one of the Veterans said.

Hearing the moniker, Welty’s apprehension melted away.

“They were looking to me for support,” he said. “I was extremely humbled.

Coach Paul Welty in a huddle with his team at the 2011 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

”His first game as coach turned outto be a real barn burner—a thrillinggame with more than 150 spectators that came down to the last shot—that resulted in a win for Welty’s team.

“One of my players, Little C [CeCe Mazyck], almost leapt out of her chair to hug me. It really moved me,” Welty said.

“It kind of found me,” he said of being a coach. “Now I’m hooked.”

James Theres, Public Affairs Specialist, Tomah (Wis.) VA Medical Center

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