An Invictus Games athlete has inspired sports students at Burnley College Sixth Form Centre with his account of how his journey to fitness has helped his recovery from PTSD and injuries he suffered as a serving soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Former Scots Guard Tom O’Brien delivered a guest lecture and led demonstrations and coaching sessions to students on Vocational Sports courses at the College, taking learning outside the classroom, giving students unique insights into how sport can transform lives and and motivating them to be the very best they can be.
Tom, who is from Great Harwood, will compete in The Hague this summer in the Invictus Games - an international, adaptive, multi-sport event, created by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel compete in a range of sports. His previous sporting achievements include the adaptive Highland Games, where he competed in several categories, including the caber toss and shot put. He also won a bronze award in powerlifting at the Warrior Games, in Colorado Springs, America.
After signing up to the army at 17, Tom served for six years with the Scots Guards, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and left the Services with post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss and arthritis.
He said: “I’ve realised how vitally important sport is to my recovery, I need to set goals and work hard to achieve them. The Highland Games were perfect. The weather and the camaraderie were amazing. It was competitive but it was more about having fun and doing something a bit different, the best thing was watching guys achieve what some might have not thought possible.”
He added: “Its hard to describe what my life was like before and even harder for others to imagine. I spent three years after Afghanistan descending further into misery, aggression was all I could ever muster, I destroyed everything around me ; my home and the trust of my family.
“After being hospitalised and spending the next two-and-a-half years heavily medicated and miserable, my health deteriorated as I gained weight from being so sedated, I was introduced to Invictus by a friend with whom I had served. Since then everything has changed, I now have drive and focus, I have rebuilt friendships with old comrades and have made so many new and wonderful friends.
“My health and fitness are returning, something I truly thought would be gone forever. Sports recovery continues to be vital to my health and wellbeing.”
Burnley College Sixth Form Centre is TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme) accredited for its work with its leading athletes who combine specialist strength and conditioning training, alongside nutritional advice and sports psychology, through an Elite Athlete programmewith academic excellence.
If you are passionate about sport, there are both A Level and Advanced Vocational routes offered at Burnley College to help you progress to university-level study and career success in this exciting industry. Learning does not just take place in the classroom, with students enjoying fascinating guest lectures, such as Tom's; involvement in community sports events; use of the college's award-winning indoor and all-weather sports facilities, plus it's high tech performance lab; travel across the UK and abroad and training from former professional athletes.
To study and train alongside others who share your passion for sport, visit our website at www.burnley.ac.uk, email email@example.com or call 01282 733333.