Team USA member Courtney Ryan grew up as a stand out soccer star. She played collegiate soccer at Metropolitan State University of Denver and earned First Team All-American honors during her career. Learn how she has translated her soccer experience to wheelchair basketball and hear about some of her inspiring views about sports and life.
Name: Courtney Ryan
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Current Team (other than USA): University of Arizona Wildcats
What was your athletic career like before you got involved with wheelchair basketball?
CR: Before my spinal cord injury and wheelchair basketball I played soccer. I played all through middle and high school. Eventually I was offered a scholarship to play collegiate soccer at Metropolitan State of Denver. My freshman year I received RMAC defensive player of the week a couple times. I was a starter my first year of college and helped the team make it to the NCAA final four. We ended up losing that game to Seattle Pacific. Following my freshman year, I continued playing for Metro State. Near the end of my colligate career, I was awarded First Team All-American and was recognized for having the most number of assists as a defender in Metro State women’s soccer history.
What was your first experience with wheelchair basketball?
CR: I had just move back to San Diego and was introduced to a program run by Challenged Athletes Foundation called Project Next. I was assigned a mentor, and her job was to introduce me to a variety of adaptive sports. I gravitated to the competitiveness and physicality of wheelchair basketball and began to play with the San Diego Hammers.
Are there any major lessons or skills that you have carried over from your soccer game to your basketball game?
CR: I believe once an athlete, always an athlete. I have carried my competitive drive as an athlete to my basketball game. I have always applied it to myself and attribute the ability to motivate my team to that drive. Soccer gave me a great work ethic and the ability to recognize the importance of each team member. This has naturally carried over to basketball.
What are some of your favorite parts about playing the sport?
CR: I have fallen in love with basketball because I can be a part of a team again that is working towards the same goal. I prefer team sports to individual ones because of the camaraderie and the ability to push each other to excel in ways you could never dream of on your own. The bond between teammates is a unique relationship and basketball allows athletes with differing skill sets to work together and become more than the sum of the parts.
How have athletics shaped you as a person?
CR: I compete because of a desire to be the best I can be. I can take this attitude and apply it to school and my everyday living.
What has your experience been like playing with many of your fellow U of A teammates on Team USA?
CR: Being new to Team USA, I hold great respect for all my team members. I really appreciate the teaching atmosphere and the intensity that the rest of the team brings to each practice. The more experienced members have been very welcoming and helped me to focus on basketball rather than making new friends. The coaching staff has a wealth of knowledge and experience that have really helped advance my game.
What motivated you to try out for Team USA for the first time?
CR: I was invited to attend tryouts during my first year of collegiate basketball. I wasn’t sure I was ready but my college coach encouraged me to give it a go. From there my competitive nature and desire to go as far as I can as an athlete took over.
What has it been like playing against international opponents and representing your country?
CR: Wearing a USA jersey is something I have dreamed of since first watching Mia Hamm on the US women’s soccer team. I am both proud and humbled to represent my country. Playing my first international games against Germany this past May was an experience I will never forget and I can’t wait to take on the world!
What advice can you give the younger generation to help them be successful on and off of the court?
CR: I would tell them to try new things, give there all and don’t let fear of failure ever stop you. The spirit can take you a lot further than a body alone ever could.
Pose a question for our next member of Team USA:
CR: What attribute do you bring to the court that is different than how you are off the court?