ussoccer.com: Gavin, congratulations on the award! This is the first time you’ve won it and the second year in a row the Disabled Athlete of the Year award has gone to a member of the Paralympic National Team.
Gavin Sibayan: It was an honor to just be nominated. My buddy Rene Renteria won it last year and it was an honor to just be nominated.
ussoccer.com: The USA earned third place at the 2014 America Cup in Canada - with you scoring twice to help the USA win the third-place match against Canada. Tell us a bit about playing under head coach Stuart Sharp?
GS: Coach Stuart expects a lot of hard work from everybody. He draws a line and says: if you work hard, you’re going to stay. People want to be here and he makes the environment so you want to come back and want to play for him. He’s got confidence in us and we take pride in that.
ussoccer.com: You’ve been with the team since 2011, but 2014 has been your best year with the PNT. Tell us a bit about your background and joining the team.
GS: I have a lot of pride for the U.S. It’s one thing fighting for the country and it’s another thing playing for it. I was in the army for six years, did one tour in Iraq from 2006-2008. I got injured in Iraq with three IEDs and got out as a Staff Sergeant. I started to get in contact with the team in 2011 and was still in the military at the time. I had a stroke when the team went to Holland that year and eventually when things got better for me, I came back on the team. I’ve tried to make myself better as a player since then.
ussoccer.com: You guys are in camp right now down in Chula Vista, Calif. Can you update us on how the team is doing?
GS: The progress our team is making right now is great. Coming from January to right now has been a big improvement. We’re getting fitter, improving our tactics and overall just getting better. The group we have assembled is a great bunch of guys. It’s easy on the field because we know each other so well, and off the field we have a lot of fun. It’s a great experience all around. We know the colors, the flag and what they mean. When we put all that together and take it onto the field, it’s all about pride for the USA.