Wounded Marine inspires local kids as basketball coach - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Wounded Marine inspires local kids as basketball coach

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    Former Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal, a double amputee, will leave Seaport Village Monday morning in a ride across America that will benefit the Semper Fi Fund. 
    Former Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal, a double amputee, will leave Seaport Village Monday morning in a ride across America that will benefit the Semper Fi Fund. 
ESCONDIDO (CBS 8) - A wounded veteran is teaching local kids an invaluable lesson.

Former Marine Sgt. Toran Gaal is a double-amputee but he's not letting that stop him from coaching basketball for second and third graders in the Escondido Police Department Athletic League.

“If we win a game this year, cool, but that's not really what it's about. It's about teaching the game of basketball and what tools you can take from the game of basketball and use in your own life,” said Toran Gaal.

On Tuesday for regular scheduled practice, Gaal walked onto the court at the Escondido East Valley Community Center, he removed his prosthetic legs. From the sidelines he coaches on the floor each game.

“The first day there was a lot of looking, what's going on,” said Cindy Hartshorn who has a son on the team.

So about five minutes into practice, Gaal huddled the team and parents to explain why he lost his legs.

In 2011, while the former Marine Sergeant was serving in Afghanistan he was injured by an IED. He lost both of his legs and suffered from a brain injury.

“From that point on the boys just see coach,” said Lisa Manthe who has twins on the team.

That was eight weeks ago and team Sapphire, made up of 8 and 9 year olds, still haven't won a game. Toran ended up with the most novice team.

“I don't teach winning, I teach getting better,” said Gaal.

The team is getting better, mentally and physically. Still no wins but they are putting more points on the board. Gaal knows the game. Before enlisting, he played college basketball at Dayton and had a chance to play professional basketball, but he says his calling was serving his country. The former infantry squad leader says he doesn't use his injury to motivate the kids but what he learned as a player.

He tells the team during practice, “What do you do when you have basketball? You're always going to have your friends with you.”

Since his injury Toran was afraid getting back on the court would set him back mentally and physically until his fiancé encouraged him to coach her daughter's team with the Escondido Police Athletic League.

"We care more about the kids grade point average and if they are good citizens,” said Lt. Al Owens. “Toran is the same way."

Olivia Prigmore who says she plays offense and defense believes she is a better player and a person because of coach Gaal, “He teaches us not to be stressed and to try our best the next time.”

While these kids, their parents and the league believe they have more to gain with Gaal on the court, the former Marine says many days he is the one winning.

“Being out here and being around them it gives you an energy that I never would have thought I would get,” said Gaal.

Gaal will have the opportunity to impact more players at the Escondido East Valley Community Center where the Police Athletic League is getting him more involved.

Toran also competes in Crossfit, speaks at local high schools and athletic programs. He also cycles in marathons. He finished the L.A. marathon this past weekend and is scheduled to participate in the Boston and San Diego marathons this year. This summer Toran is leaving for a ride across America.

The Escondido Police Athletic League is paid for through donations. Coaches are all volunteer. To donate or volunteer call the Escondido Police Department at (760) 839-4722.

Some of the footage used in this video story was shot using aGoPro camera.
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