DAF sports build more capable Airmen, Guardians Published Dec. 12, 2022 By Debbie Aragon AFIMSC Public Affairs USSF Spc. 3 Christopher Ellis takes a jump shot over a Marine defender during the 2022 Armed Forces Basketball Tournament at Naval Base San Diego, California, Nov. 7. Ellis, the first U.S. Space Force Guardian to join the Department of the Air Force basketball team, was the leading scorer during the game. “I am more than proud and honored to be able to be the first to represent the Space Force in this capacity and hope that I can lead the way and encourage other Guardians to pursue national and international sports as ambassadors to our branch and our country,” said Ellis, a 16th Electronic Warfare space systems operator at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. James R. Crow) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res – The Air Force Services Center has opportunities for Airmen and Guardians who want to face the best athletic competition in the U.S. Armed Forces, make connections, build resiliency and serve as an example for others. All those things are benefits of representing the Air and Space Forces by participating in the Department of the Air Force sports program. “When you form a team in our DAF sports program, the players are from a wide variety of specialty codes, ages, backgrounds, etc., but when they come together, they work rapidly through the stages of team building and then perform,” said Maj. Aaron Tissot, chief of DAF sports and fitness at the Air Force Services Center. On a service-wide sports team, you might have a communications troop working alongside a pilot for the first time while learning and bonding on the field, Tissot said. "They are coming together with the goal to win a championship against other Department of Defense teams or, in some cases, international military teams,” he said. “They take the breadth of exposure to others and those tools back with them to the work center.” Competing at a higher level also helps participants better cope with stress and makes them more well-rounded as Airmen and Guardians. They become better ambassadors for the Department of the Air Force as a whole, said Tech. Sgt. Alyssa Davis, NCO in charge of DAF sports. “I’ve seen DAF sports athletes who have gone on to start fitness programs in their work centers and training camps for youth at their installations and in their communities,” said Davis, who tracks events, manages the application process, and processes travel funding and other administrative requirements. Lt. Col. Jeremiah Kirschman, deputy commander of the 92nd Mission Support Group at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, has a lot of experience with DAF sports. He was an All-Air Force soccer player in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012, an All-Air Force assistant soccer coach in 2015 and head coach in 2018, 2019 and 2022. He was also a Conseil International du Sport Militaire, or CISM, soccer player on Team USA in 2013, an assistant coach in 2015 and head coach in 2019. “I've helped the All-Air Force Men's Soccer Team win gold four times and silver three times. For CISM, I helped the team beat Germany and Canada, and tie France,” he said. The 2022 Department of the Air Force Basketball Team pose for a group photo during Armed Forces tournament play. (U.S. Air Force photo) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res “Having an opportunity to represent DAF on the national level instills a great sense of pride in our Airmen,” he said. “The bonds and friendships they form at our training camps and in tournaments continues well after the practices and games conclude. Some of my players have found their best life-long friends from DAF sports. “Our athletes also return to their work centers excited and more confident, which is infectious.” With about 2,000 military athletes taking part each year, the DAF sports program involves sporting competitions above the intramural level found at installations. The program includes sports teams or individual athletes competing against their sister services during Armed Forces tournaments or events. Individual players can also be selected for a U.S. Armed Forces team that competes in international competitions. The All-Air Force men's soccer team practices April 29 at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The team trained three times a day during the 2 1/2-week training camp. (U.S. Air Force photo/Steve Warns/Released) Photo Details / Download Hi-Res The window to try out or compete for a DAF sports team typically begins 45 days prior to training camp or, in the case of individual sports, official DAF coaching. “For team sports, coaches determine who will join the team based on training camp performance,” Davis said. “Individual athletes like golfers or cross-country runners are selected based on their resume.” To be admitted to the program, athletes must have a consistent record of performance, and receive recommendations from their supervisors and commanders. “You have to have some form of athletic prowess,” Tissot said, “but just because you feel you might be an average golfer or average runner, doesn’t mean you won’t be selected. We often select folks who have never been in our program and give them an opportunity to perform at training camp, because we do our best to make sure it’s equitable and have as many as athletes as possible participate in our program.” Airmen and Guardians can look forward to 2023 competitions beginning Jan. 19-22, in Richmond, Virginia, with Armed Forces Cross Country. While some events are still being finalized, here are confirmed DAF sports events and their application windows: Men’s and women’s cross country, Nov. 21-Dec. 19 Men’s and women’s wrestling, Dec. 1-28 Men’s soccer, Dec. 18-Feb. 1 Men’s and women’s Triathlon, Dec. 30-Feb. 13 Men’s rugby, May 9-June 23 Men’s and women’s golf, June 1-July 15 With COVID primarily in the rear-view mirror, both Tissot and Davis are looking forward to a full schedule of sports events in 2023. “Now that we have the machine fired back up, we’re excited to offer a more complete sports program in 2023 with hopes of getting fully back on board with all our sports in the near future,” Tissot said. “It’s been very tough,” Davis said of COVID’s impact on the program. “We weren’t able to have soccer for three years. When we were able to bring a team together, we had more than 200 athletes apply and were able to bring more to training camp because of the long break.” At the end of the day, DAF sports is a resiliency program, Tissot said. “We’re living in a world where we have to do more with less and often see program cuts,” he said, “but senior leadership sees morale, welfare and recreation programs, like DAF sports, as extremely important to our resiliency as Airmen, Guardians and the Department of the Air Force. “I’m proud to be a part of it and couldn’t be happier that everyone in the DAF has an opportunity to play to represent themselves, their service and their nation at such a high level.” For up-to-date information on the DAF sports schedule and to submit applications, go to www.DAFSports.com.