Knox youth gain resilience

By Ms. Maureen Rose (IMCOM)December 6, 2013

Teen CSF2
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CSF2 for teens
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Editor's note: This is the third in a three-part series.

The Army's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness is being met with success in many aspects of Soldiers' lives--personal and professional. However, the Fort Knox program has gone a step further by introducing the CSF2 training at the installation high school.

Sport coaches have been using many of the performance enhancing skills of CSF2 with their teams for several years, primarily at the urging of coach Kip Rambo, who said it made sense to take advantage of the CSF2 trainers already available at Knox.

The coach convinced the principal it shouldn't stop with the athletics.

"If it's good for athletes, why wouldn't it be good for all our students--even those who don't participate in sports could benefit," Rambo said.

With the coach's persistence, Fort Knox High School principal Dr. Greg Mowen wondered if the program could be broadened further. As the staff was preparing for accreditation reviews, which is an intense time for them, Mowen said they seemed to be less than enthusiastic and he asked about training for the staff since he had heard so much (from Rambo) about the optimism instilled by the training. They contacted Moon Mullins, the CSF2 training center manager at Fort Knox, about sharing the training with the school's staff. The performance enhancement training began in the spring and resilience training was completed in the fall, so the entire staff completed the training this year.

Since then, the CSF2 training has been provided to all ninth and tenth grade students in addition.

Rambo said one of the first techniques he could see the students applying was recovery breathing; it's deep breathing that facilitates more oxygen reaching muscles, brain and nerves. That additional oxygen improves motor control as well as concentration.

Mowen said the staff was enlightened with the training as well.

"We all tend to think the worst instead of learning to look for good, learn to be positive," he said.

"The essence of resilience is optimism and learning to hunt the good stuff, recognize your thinking traps and turn yourself around are key elements."

Measuring life changes is never easy, but Rambo claims one indicator of success has been eligibility; the coach said he didn't have a single player who had to sit out a game due to academic ineligibility, so he's "virtually certain" that the CSF2 is affecting academics as well as sport performance.

"I see things that make me very, very proud of my athletes," Rambo said.

To ensure the resilience program would be grasped by teens, the Fort Knox training center lead instructor, Marjorie Fusinetti, said some adaptations were necessary.

"We stayed true to the program's concepts and principles," she said. "We just used more teen-friendly examples and language so it would be easily relatable to them."

The pilot program was also designed so the students had to interact with trainers. The primary goal, she explained, was to help with cultural change and consistency as more Soldiers learn the soon-to-be mandatory principles.

"By using the language of resilience and the language of enhancing performance, the whole Family develops resilience together."

Fusinetti also credited her team with the pilot.

"We have a great team here and we worked hard to develop this curriculum for teens," she said.

FKHS students demonstrated a grasp of CSF2 principles. Kelvin Pickens, an 11th grader who plays basketball, said the deep breathing has helped him, as well as the positive statements, to stay focused in a game.

Shannon Brown, a ninth grader who participates in golf, cross country and swimming, said her golf game has probably benefited the most from her CSF2 skills.

"You can be a great player with a great swing, but you have to control your emotions; you can't just let yourself go," she said. "You have to hunt for the good stuff and remember to stay optimistic."

A ninth-grade baseball player, Prince Xavier Sullivan, said staying positive is a skill he employs frequently. Rather than setting a goal to hit a home run, it helps to break the goal down into smaller, attainable steps like making contact with the ball. He said his grades have improved as well since his CSF2 training. He's learned to think about what improvements he needs rather than fuming about why he didn't do well.

Yuri Maisel said her CSF2 has helped her in sports more than other areas.

"I knew that mindset affects your play, but I think we needed a reminder," she said. "Sometimes the mindset just tells me I need more practice so that helps my skills, too. All the good mindset in the world doesn't help if you haven't gone to practice to work on the motor skills."

Swimmer Dorothy Tisdel said she's been using imagery for enhancing her performance.

"On the starting block, I visualize my strokes, my flip turn, every stroke on the way back," she said.

At a recent meet, she improved her time by a whole second, although she's not sure where the credit for that improvement should go. Academically, she also is trying to change some of her habits. Normally, she eats and reads when she gets home after a school day, but after the trainers said everyone procrastinates, she said "I'm not going to be one those people."

A sophomore on the girls soccer team, Bailey Rasmussen said the deep breathing skills help her calm her jittery nerves before a game. But she also took the performance skills to heart with her academics.

"We learned not to spread yourself too thin, take care of yourself," she said. The straight A student said she's never allowed herself to settle for a B; recently she stayed up until 3 in the morning on a school night doing homework. She knows that's not a wise practice, but pushes herself.

She's also learning, as a military kid, that she shouldn't waste energy on things she can't change, like moving to new places.

"You learn to deal with it," she said.

The principles of this training could make a real impact in the lives of these kids, Rambo added.

"That's the hope," Mowen said.