Archery is fun, it’s great exercise and, for some, a necessary escape from life’s hardships.
That’s the reality for many combat veterans like Sgt. Scott Hasting, who served as an Army infantryman in Afghanistan. “I was shot 10 times; five times in the shoulder, four times in the hip and one time in the thigh,” Hasting said.
His physical wounds were painful but eventually healed. It was life after the military that left the deepest wounds.
“You take someone who was a combat soldier and then they’re told tell they can no longer do what they love to do,” Hasting said. “I loved the military. I wanted to make a life out of the military, and I was told I couldn’t do it.”
Then Hasting found archery.
“For me, archery was a sport I thought I couldn’t do,” he said. “Until one day I went out and tried it.”
Hasting began his deep dive into archery by competing in the Warrior Games, and is now a Warrior Games coach and para-athlete. He recently took fourth place in the recurve open-para division at the U.S. National Target Championship. With the 2018 Paralympic Games approaching, he hopes to earn a spot to represent Team USA. And although he is a serious competitor, Hasting also uses archery for its therapeutic benefits.
“Archery is a great adaptive sport because it’s therapeutic,” Hasting said. “When you’re on the line the only thing that matters is putting the sight on the target and making the best release you can. Nothing else matters in that moment. It’s like an escape. All the bad stuff that’s going on just doesn’t matter.”
That escape is the Warrior Games’ foundation. The Games were created to give veterans a renewed sense of purpose through adaptive sports competitions.
The 2017 Warrior Games drew 265 ill, injured or wounded service members; and veterans representing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, United Kingdom, Australian Defense Force, and U.S. Special Operations Command. They competed June 30 to July 8 in archery, cycling, shooting, swimming, track and field, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.
“These adaptive sports give them a sense of purpose,” Hasting said. “The military was their purpose, and when that’s taken away from you, it’s tough. Archery, and adaptive sports in general, renew that drive.”
The archery competition consisted of the compound and recurve disciplines, with males and females competing in the same divisions. That didn’t slow Michelle Sanchez, the sole female on Team Army’s gold-medal-winning compound team.
“During the trials, she shot better than anyone else,” Hasting said. “She was a shoo-in for the team. We look for athletes who want to be the best, and she was willing to put in the work to become the best.”
The Games also include a visually impaired division for archers like AJ Mohamed, who was blinded by an explosion while serving in a Navy security detail in Iraq. Mohamed suffered a host of other injuries in the explosion, but nothing keeps him from competing in the sport he loves. “These competitions bring back that sense of self-worth, that sense of pride,” Mohamed said in an interview with Fox News.
He shoots a compound bow with help from a spotter who stands behind him and lets him know when he’s on target. His spotter, who happens to be his wife, helped Mohamed finish third in his division. “Trusting her as my eyes and as my wife has allowed me to succeed,” he said.
Competitors at the Warrior Games have various backgrounds but similar experiences. Some service members have visible injuries, while others have equally painful “invisible” injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
“PTSD is derived from being in a traumatic experience,” Hasting said. “Being in a war zone, there are things that you had to do, that you had to see, situations you were in that you wouldn’t wish anyone would have to do. For me, it was all the guys I lost in Afghanistan.”
Although archery can’t cure PTSD, it can play an important role in recovery. Hasting credits archery with helping him through difficult times.
“Archery teaches you to take it one arrow at a time,” Hasting said. “In archery perspective, it’s one arrow at a time, but in life, it’s one day at a time. Things get better. In archery, every arrow you shoot, you get better. It’s the same in everyday life, the more you’re here, the more you fight, the better everything gets.”
The benefits of shooting a bow aren’t limited to service members. Anyone can benefit from the escape archery provides. If you’re interested in taking advantage of the therapeutic benefits of archery, follow Hasting’s advice. “Go to a local shop, sling some arrows and see what you think,” he said.