By Marcy SanchezJune 8, 2016
Vince Lombardi once said, "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get back up." This iconic phrase has been echoed through sports locker rooms for decades. The saying still bears true for today's warriors of the battlefield.
A major factor in how someone "gets back up" is their mental resiliency. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines resilience as "the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens." No one knows more about getting back up than wounded warriors.
"We help individuals perform at their highest levels, and if they are at their highest levels then we help them maintain that performance," said Heather Hassinger, a Master Resilience Trainer Performance Expert at the Fort Bliss Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center. "We take sports and exercise psychology skills and use these skills with Soldiers and their performances, things that they need to be able to accomplish."
This year Hassinger, a native of Middleburg, Pennsylvania, will be attending the 2016 Warrior Games which kicks off June 15 at West Point, New York, to provide mental skills coaching for the U.S. Army's archery team.
According to Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness, mental skills coaching focuses on Soldiers' abilities, rather than limitations, helping build confidence and optimism.
"Mental resiliency is important (in archery) because you are forced to concentrate and forced to focus for such a long period of time," said Jessie White, former U.S. Army archery team archer and head coach for this year's U.S. Army Archery Team. "If you can't mentally recover from something, not only in archery but in everyday life, if you don't have the abilities, coping skills and mental resilience you may not win."
White, a retired Army staff sergeant and native of Leesburg, Georgia, has witnessed first-hand, the importance of mental resiliency in competitive sports like archery.
"One Warrior Games I lost a gold medal because I got upset, the rest of the day was horrible," said White. "Now, since I've worked with the resiliency program for six years, it doesn't happen anymore."
Retired Master Sgt. Shawn "Bubba" Vosburg, a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, will be competing in this year's Warrior Games. Vosburg's events include archery, air rifle and pistol, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.
"There are two sports that are more mental than physical: archery and rifle," said Vosburg, a native of El Paso, Texas. "There's the art of loading and aiming, the rest of it is mental."
Both White and Vosburg agreed that archery itself is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.
The Warrior Games does bring a different setting to athletes, changing their usual practice scenarios from post gymnasiums and fields to competing at West Point's Eisenhower Hall Theatre and other venues. To add to the change there will be media presence, crowd distractions and other diversions.
"Mental skills coaches teach you how to go from 100 mph down to five," said White. "You're not competing against anybody but yourself."
According to Vosburg, who was medically retired in 2015, the Army's adaptive sports program has changed his life. The program gave him a different aspect in transitioning out of the military.
"There's so much more to do than just give up," said Vosburg.
"We want to reach a consistency and figure out how to maintain consistency," said Hassinger. "We build confidence in new situations and teach Soldiers about tension control and staying focused."