No arms? No legs?
No excuses — at least, not at Team Some Assembly Required, an Ohio-based nonprofit organization for athletes with physical disabilities.
“No matter what the injury or adaptation is, we can still compete at a high level,” said Dale King, one of two Army veterans who co-founded the organization. “We want to show Americans that there’s no excuse. There’s no limitations to what the human body can do.”
Named for the process of putting on prosthetics, Team SAR is made up of adaptive athletes who are wheelchair-bound or missing limbs. They train to compete — and win — in CrossFit and other sporting events across the country against other adaptive or able-bodied contestants.
The nonprofit got its start in 2014, after King’s co-founder and friend, Derick Carver, lost his left leg in combat and went on to compete in one of the toughest CrossFit competitions against contestants who had all four limbs.
“He definitely represented,” said King, a 36-year-old serial entrepreneur whom fans of the ABC show “Shark Tank” may recognize as the Ranger Panties-wearing contestant from season 8.
Team SAR’s co-founders met at Capital University in Ohio when King was a senior and Carver was a freshman, King said. They both played football, participated in ROTC and were paired as mentor and mentee.
Marcus Hayward, a Team SAR amputee and Army veteran who has known the friends for three years, describes them as polar opposites. While both are encouragers, King is the more soft-spoken, rational one, while Carver, he said affectionately, is the “loud mouth.”
“They’re really good guys,” he said. “Dale is just kind of low key, and Derick is just in your face, straight to the point.”
The whole team inspires one another to be better athletes as they suffer through workouts together, Hayward said. “We’re really like a big family when it comes down to it.”
That’s how King, who owns a CrossFit gym and helps run two e-commerce companies in Portsmouth, Ohio, that both financially and physically support Team SAR, feels about all of his undertakings.
“The biggest thing with myself and with other veterans when you get out of the military — especially when you’ve deployed downrange — you lose that sense of tribe. You lose that sense of brotherhood,” he said.
When King separated from the military in 2007 and took a government job, he felt like he had no connection to his coworkers. Now, he has 15 employees he met through his gym that now work for his two other companies and also volunteer with the nonprofit.
“We work together, we work out together, we go drink together, we have fun,” he said. “We’re there to have each other’s back. So, basically, it’s like being in a unit again.”
The same is true for members of Team SAR. Outside of events, the group’s members have opportunities to connect with others who have similar injuries or adaptations.
“For these guys, they’re not on an island anymore,” King said. “They get categorized as adaptive athletes, but it’s the same thing with anybody. They’re looking for a community to get involved with and they’re looking for a community that will support them.”
Hayward said within the Team SAR community, athletes are often able to connect with others who have similar injuries or adaptations.
And while some on Team SAR who bench 500 pounds or run marathons have a history of participating in sports, others are new to competitive athletics.
“We’re taking people that have a really good attitude, that may have lost their leg in a car accident, that may have lost their hand due to some sort of issue,” King said. “They weren’t already competing at a high level before their injury, but now they don’t want their injury to define them as who they are, so that’s they’re driving force.”
And being around them has changed his perspective.
“As able-bodied civilians, it’s real easy to start bitching about quote, unquote ‘first world problems,’” he said. “There’s guys who would love to be what I’m doing right now, and I owe it to them to get the job done.”