When Cari Buck got the call from an old contact to work and train with two wheelchair athletes in preparation for the Invictus Games held recently in Sydney, Australia, she knew it was an opportunity she could simply not pass up.
USTA National Wheelchair Tennis Coach Paul Walker is a longtime friend of Buck’s and the two had previously coached together at the ITF/USTA International Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp held in Mission Viejo, Calif.
Walker then put the USTA Southern California Section Marketing Director Buck in touch with Tom Hopkins, who would serve as the lead for the Team USA Invictus Games Training Camp held Oct. 12-15 in Port Hueneme.
The Invictus Games is an international adaptive multi-sport event, created by the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in a variety of sports like basketball and tennis.
Buck was assigned to two wheelchair tennis athletes, Chance Field (Navy) and Brian Williams (Air Force). Field had been a tennis player prior to being injured, and has competed in wheelchair tennis events before, while Williams had only played casually and is relatively new to the game.
“After speaking with Tom about the specifics, I knew I had to make it work,” said Buck, a Manhattan Beach resident. “What an honor to be asked, and what an amazing opportunity to work with such a special group of athletes. I could just not pass it up.”
Buck was happy to report the team taking home the bronze medal. “The thing that just made this year so awesome was that the U.S. had never even won a set in the Invictus Games, let alone a match,” Buck said. “To take home the bronze medal was so huge. It was just an amazing experience and I’m so glad I was selected to work with the team.”
Hopkins praised Buck for her work in preparing the athletes for their matches. “Cari’s style and approach to coaching were a great fit for our program,” said Hopkins, who sent an email to Buck after the second day of practice that read in part, “I’m getting great feedback from everyone in regards to your coaching. I can’t express how happy I am with the feedback I’m getting.”
Buck has been coaching wheelchair tennis for more than 25 years, getting her start at the Royal Lahaina Tennis Ranch in Maui. She coached for seven years at the ITF/USTA International Junior Wheelchair Tennis Camp and has been recognized as USPTA Southern California Section Wheelchair/Adaptive Coach of the Year, as well as receiving a service award for Wheelchair Tennis from USTA SoCal Section.
“Wheelchair Tennis is not as big here is the United States, as it is in other countries but it is growing which is great,” said Buck, an Elite level USPTA certified Tennis Professional. “A lot of people play basketball and other sports, but it’s so cool to see it grow and to be associated with these athletes.”
She added: “I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to work with Team USA as they prepared for the Invictus Games. Working with Chance and Brian was amazing and I can’t begin to describe how excited I was when they won the bronze medal. I’m just so honored, humbled, and thrilled to have been a part of it.”