News: Army veteran volunteers with Fort Carson middle school students
Story by Jennifer Spradlin
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- “Ready? Take a step and as fast as you can explode! Go! How’s that? Great job.”
As a line of Fort Carson middle school students wait for their turn, Army veteran Sean Hook patiently coaches each through a round of shotput drills designed to improve their throwing distances.
Hook, who was injured in Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom when his platoon was hit by a vehicle-born improvised explosive device, is here to represent the Army in the shotput and discus events of the 2012 Warrior Games. His left shoulder was torn and he also sustained a concussive injury. The Warrior Games bring together wounded, ill and injured service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force and Special Operations Command in a sporting competition hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Earlier in the pre-games training week, Hook and his fellow athletes trained at the middle school facility. During practice, the middle school coach and gym teacher stopped by and invited the athletes to spend a little time with his students. The athletes graciously accepted his invitation.
“They were shocked at how far we could throw. We were throwing 55ft with their shotputs, which granted are a little bit lighter, but after we gave them a demonstration they were pretty excited for us to teach them,” said Hook, an Altoona, Pa., native.
Hook has some experience coaching - training soldiers. He was in the active duty Army for five years before joining his local National Guard unit, the 56th Stryker Brigade, and accompanying them on a deployment to Iraq. During his deployment, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and extensive damage to his shoulder. Sports have been a positive step in getting his life back on course.
“I’m new to track and field, never did it in my life and then got into it six months ago, but I know how important sports are and how frustrating it was to pick up a shotput and try to throw it,” said Hook. “If you think about, you are throwing a heavy ball as far as you can, there’s hardly any self-satisfaction in it unless you learn to do it right. It’s very technical.”
A few days after the initial session with the kids, the coach contacted Hook and told him some of his pupils had made a big improvement in their throwing distance at the school track meet. He was invited back to work with some of the kids who had been unable to make it the first time.
Hook and Jesse White, another Army veteran from the team, who both have children of their own, returned for another session with the kids. Despite their busy training schedule, Hook said the sessions with the kids were beneficial to him.
“[It] helps you get back to the basics. These kids are at a basic learning experience right now and for some, this may even be their first time, but that was me six months ago, and I got a lot better because I was devoted, and I kept at it,” said Hook. “If we change the mind of one kid, and encourage them to stay with it, then it’s all worth it.”
The Warrior Games will run from April 30 – May 5. To learn more about the Warrior Games or the Army athletes, visit the Warrior Transition Command homepage at wtc.army.mil.