By Robert WhetstoneMarch 12, 2019
FORT BLISS, Texas - - Grunts and yells were loud and clear at the Army Trials Field events on March 11 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Throwing the shot put is an event that is said to have originated in the Scottish Highlands. At the 2019 Army Trials, don't be surprised when you hear guttural noises as Soldiers and veterans throw the shot put or discus, and maybe see a competitor or two donning a kilt while throwing.
Throwing the shot put or the discus is much more complex than picking up the apparatus, walking into the pit and tossing it any way you feel comfortable. There are rules and techniques involved to level the playing field, and reduce injuries.
U.S. Army Sgt. Ricardo Berry is growing very familiar with what he feels is the most difficult aspect of throwing the shot put.
"You have to know technique, said Berry, 1st Air Combat Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood. "You have to practice, and it comes down to actually (throwing the shot put) without hurting yourself."
Lt. Col. Ted Sobocienski, commander, 3rd Battalion 38th Mountain Infantry Regiment, Warrior Transition Battalion from Fort Drum, New York, traveled to the trials to support his four Soldiers. As of today, Sobocienski's Soldiers have earned four gold medals and two bronze. But, the Army Trials are more than simply competing and earning medals.
"I told all of my athletes I would be equally as proud if they came home with nothing," said Sobocienski. "I told two of my athletes last night, I am 'dad' proud, not battalion commander proud. It is beyond amazing what these athletes can do."
Sobocienski said the entire intent of adaptive reconditioning is to heal and transition, and to get Soldiers physically and socially engaged. "It is preparing them for being outside of the WTB," he said.
Field events are one of the adaptive sports in the program that first-time participants like Berry uses to help provide the focus necessary to heal.
"The first time I threw the shot put was at the regional games in Hawaii (November 2018)," said Berry. "It still takes some getting used to. What's next for me, hopefully, is to participate and represent the Army at the Warrior Games. Adaptive sports helped out a lot. It gave me the ability and confidence to still compete at the (same) level (I did) before I got injured."
Field events include seated shot put, standing shot put, seated discus, and standing discus. The weights of the shot put and discus vary for men and women in all events. Athletes compete in different classification categories based on functional abilities, including impaired muscle power/range of movement, limb deficiency and visual impairment. Athletes with lower extremity injuries or impaired balance use specialized equipment, such as the field throwing chair.
"Way back in another lifetime when I was a lot younger I threw the shot put," said Sobocienski. "Some of these throws are out classing and out distancing what I was throwing in high school, and they are using a heavier shot. Some of the discus throws are landing in the next field over. They're doing awesome!"
Soldiers and veterans who are not aware of adaptive reconditioning are encouraged to witness the opportunities available to them.
"You really need to come out and watch the spirit of the games," explained Sobocienski. "They're competing against each other, but also cheering each other on. This is a huge team effort."