JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
A member of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston contributed his coaching talents in helping the All-Army Men’s Volleyball Team to a second-place finish at an Armed Forces tournament in May.
Sgt. Pedro Ortiz Feliciano, 470th MIB analyst, was an assistant coach for the Army team that competed at the Armed Forces Volleyball Championship May 7-11 at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Men’s and women’s teams from the Army, Navy and Air Force participated in the round-robin tournament.
The men’s Army team earned the silver medal at the tournament with a 3-3 match record, finishing behind tournament champion Air Force, who went 5-1.
Ortiz Feliciano said he enjoyed his experience being a member of the Army team.
“It was not only a privilege but it was mesmerizing because you have a group of people who are not only Soldiers, but that actually love the sport,” he said. “So just to concentrate on that and really play and represent the Army was really, really, really rewarding.”
Ortiz Feliciano has been playing volleyball since his teen years, starting on his middle school team in his native Puerto Rico. He continued playing the sport in high school and played professionally for one season, also in Puerto Rico.
He said he decided to attend try outs for the Army team after playing in volleyball leagues in San Antonio and getting the support of his commander.
“I saw the opportunity,” Ortiz Feliciano said. “I figured, why not? Just try out. You never know. That’s essentially what drove me.
Ortiz Feliciano was one of 19 service members who tried out for the team in April. The tryouts were held at Fort Indiantown Gap Army Reserve Center, Pa., the Army team’s training facility. The month long tryouts were competitive as service members practiced three times a day and played in several tournaments against club teams made up of former collegiate players.
After the tryouts were completed, 12 service members were selected to the team. Ortiz Feliciano was not one of them, but the team’s head coach, Jaime Gonzalez, asked him to stay on as an assistant coach.
He said being an assistant coach gave him an opportunity to utilize the knowledge and skills he has acquired in playing volleyball to help the Army team. In addition, Ortiz Feliciano has a degree in sports science with expertise of physical training and body recovery.
“Essentially what ended up happening is the coach needed some help,” Ortiz Feliciano said. “He figured if he got some extra help, it would be better for the team. Out of all the candidates that were participating, as far as knowledge in the court, knowledge against other teams and scouting other teams, I became the most experienced in that position (assistant coach).”
As assistant coach, Ortiz Feliciano duties included reading the offensive and defensive set ups of opposing teams, helping to create offensive plays and enhancing the Army team’s physical training.
“Even though we didn’t win gold at the Armed Forces tournament, I can say with 100 percent confidence that our team had the most stamina out there,” Ortiz Feliciano said. “I believe we were the most prepared when it came to physical readiness.”
He said volleyball is one of the top two sports to play in Puerto Rico, next to baseball. In fact, according to Ortiz Feliciano, about half of the members on the Army volleyball team are from Puerto Rico, including head coach Gonzalez.
Ortiz Feliciano said his family back home in Puerto Rico was happy for him when they found out he was playing volleyball while serving his country.
“They are really ecstatic, not only because I got to play, but because I got to do what I like,” he said. “I love playing volleyball. It was really cool for them.”
Ortiz Feliciano came to the U.S. in 2010 to study in the chiropractic program at Life University, in Marietta, Georgia, graduating with his sports science degree in 2014. Four months later, he joined the Army.
His next goal is to pursue the position of head coach for the women’s Army volleyball team next year. Ortiz Feliciano said he believes his experience as both a player and assistant coach would help him to improve the performance of the All Army Women’s Volleyball Team, which finished third at this year’s Armed Forces Volleyball Championship.
“I believe that the experience (of being an assistant coach) plus the volleyball player experience mixed together, it’ll help us come out on top next year for (the Army women’s team),” he said. “They have the talent to win, (the women’s team) just needs a little bit more organizing.”