By Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom
The Warrior Games is an annual competition featuring nearly 200 wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers from all branches of service and is less than a week away. Athletes are preparing to compete in several sports including, shooting, swimming, archery, track and field, cycling, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO, on May 16-22.
For the Army’s shooting team, it is time to make the final preparations that may mean the difference in the competition. Part of those preparations includes the active assistance and encouragement of a trio of staff members dedicated to their physical, mental, and technical readiness.
The first member of the trio is the coach, MSG Howard Day. His role is to help the Army shooters acclimate to Colorado’s 6,000 feet of elevation, work with facilities and equipment, and guide them through any last minute shooting issues. The other two staff members are Performance Enhancement Specialist Lindsay Holtz, from the Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP), and Physical Therapist CPT Ritland Bradley from Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
One of the many Army shooters training with these coaches and staff assistants is SSG Kory Irish from the Fort Drum Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). Pictured above, Irish earned a gold medal at the Army Marksmanship Unit’s clinic this past January. Now in Colorado, he begins his training by first participating in mental exercises intended to improve his mental performance. Electrodes are first placed under his ears and are connected to an energy management software program on a computer. The program is designed to measure his heart rate, respiration, and levels of brain activity. By breathing deeply and relaxing mentally, Irish can achieve a “state of coherence” which can help him stay focused. Talking about these techniques and their effectiveness, Irish said, “The focusing drills help clear whatever is going on. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, the techniques work.” He is counting on this type of focus to allow him to take the competition one well-aimed shot at a time.
CSF-PREP focuses on increasing the performance of wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their spouses at ten sites located at posts and stations throughout the Army. When asked about the importance of mental preparation in the shooting competition, Holtz remarked, “The mental game is essential—each shot could be the tiebreaker.” When asked how these techniques can apply to other areas in individuals’ lives she added, “Tasks such as goal setting can be difficult to do alone. These techniques can apply to all areas of their lives.”
SSG Irish and his teammates, with the continued assistance of MSG Day, Bradley, and Holtz, plan to bring their best physical, technical, and mental game to the Olympic Training Center range next week. In a competition where the winner could be decided by mere tenths of a point, mental stress can build quickly. As the Army shooting team pulls together and good natured inter-service rivalry starts to warm up, they will need all of their training and techniques to ensure they meet their competition at the peak of their performance.