"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” he whispered to himself as he dropped the sights on target and drew his recurve bow. His feet shifted slightly in the grass to compensate for the gusts of sea breeze leaning him a touch to the left.
His eyes closed briefly then opened to reveal dozens of blurred circles of color in a row. In their center—one clear, black dot.
His very first arrow squeezed right through the half-inch mouth of a plastic soda bottle taped to the bull’s-eye of an archery target 20 meters away.
Daniel Govier had everyone’s attention.
The first time he pulled off this stunt he was a student in the Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program, or WAR-P, competing for a place on the Marine Corps Warrior Games team. Now, after exiting the Corps and earning three gold medals and a legion of regional archery titles, Govier does the trick shot to gain his students’ attention as their coach.
“I can’t leave it alone now,” said Govier, who first picked up a bow to help recondition his shoulder after a motorcycle accident. The tension of the bow worked wonders for his pain. The required focus also helped him stay in the present—and kept him from thinking about what he saw in Iraq.
“I’m finally at the point in my recovery where I can pass on what I’ve learned to my brothers going through some of the same mess I was going through years ago,” he said. “It’s hard work what they are doing, and while I’m proud of myself for making it this far in my sport, I’m more proud of these guys for being out here and taking an active role in their recovery through sport.”
In just four years, Govier has come full circle—from “broken Marine” to athlete and coach. For him, programs like the Marines’ WAR-P have worked.
“There’s definitely a connection [between physical fitness through adaptive sports and a healthy recovery from traumatic injury and stress],”said Marc Diaz, recreational specialist at the Hope and Care Center in Camp Pendleton, California. “I see it every day. These guys are focused on the sport. They’re not thinking about anything else. They’re not thinking about their anxiety or depression, nor whatever it is that triggers their PTSD or TBI. They use physical activity as an outlet—as therapy—to help them cope with whatever it is they are going through.”
Jenny Sullivan, the program director for WAR-P, based in Quantico, Virginia, said the program has three distinct steps Marines must take to advance toward recovery. First, they have to implement healthy habits while maintaining their conditioning. Next, they start getting specialized training at camps and in competitions. And finally, they use that training to reach their goal.
“My ultimate goal was to one day be here coaching my fellow Marines,” Govier said. “The best advice I can give for those just starting down this journey is the same thing I say to myself before every shot—slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Take it slow—concentrate on the sport, and the rest will fall into place.
“Before you know it, your ultimate goal will be in your sights.”
Joseph Andrew Lee is a USO staff writer.