It started on 6 May 2011 when I flew to Colorado Springs to meet and coach the US Army Archery Team for the 2011 Warrior Games held at the Olympic Training Center. And I have to admit it was the best two weeks of my life!
Even though there were long hours, we all had fun and learned a little something from everyone there.
In case you don’t know what the Warrior Games are or why it was established, let me explain. A little over two years ago a few key leaders, both military and civilian along with the Olympic Training Committee, came up with the idea to form a type of Olympics for our Soldiers and Vets who have returned from war with injuries. Now when I say injuries, I am not just talking about missing limbs or brain injuries, but the hardest to see and understand injuries that affect the minds of our Soldiers and Vets. These Games gave the Athletes another approach to life and a form of physical therapy and other meanings to life. But so much more was learned, and that was one’s self worth. All branches of service were represented with their own teams that they selected to compete in seven sports: wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, archery, shooting,, track and field and swimming.
So here we are at the Olympic Training Center getting ready for our Games. One could feel the excitement surrounding myself and everyone there. From opening to closing ceremonies, each branch of service fought for a Gold Medal in the seven events, but we all knew that everyone there already earned a Gold Medal. Just being there earned them a Gold Medal in everyone’s heart and soul. We saw these Soldiers and Vets compete against each other with nothing but heart and soul in support of their branch, be it Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard. They fought with the heart of a lion, as true heroes.
I met the Archery Team and we started training, running three shifts of training. This was done so my archers competing could also compete in other events. My team and I adjusted as much as possible. At the end of the training week the Athletes moved to and lived at the Olympic Training Center, just like an Olympian. It is now D-Day, the Archery tournament has started and I learned a very important thing: it is much harder being a coach than being a shooter! My nerves were on edge for every shoot. If you’re coaching one shooter or coaching 13 Shooters like I did, it is very stressful, and I loved every minute of it and I would do it again in a heart beat!
At the end of the first day 16 shooters would advance, composed of the top eight from recurve and compound styles. The Army had four shooters advance, three for recurve and one in compound. On day two there was so much excitement with the medal rounds. By the end of the first round the Army team was down to just two shooters, one in each style who made it to the Gold Medal round.
Each Gold Medal round was a nail bitter. In the recurve style it was Army vs. Marines, and in the compound style it was Navy vs. Army. Arrow for arrow, end for end, but in the end the Army team fell just two points short of taking Gold in both styles. So the Army Archery Team brought home two Silver Medal, out-damn-standing if you ask me!