Service On The Sidelines: Veterans Transitioning To Coaching
By Kenny Connolly
Upon the conclusion of a four-year career in the military where he served as a United States Marine sergeant, Anthony Sampogna was left with an itch to find the next outlet where he could be part of a team.
It’s a common sentiment shared by veterans. Having served in the military – the country’s greatest team – coaching offers a seamless transition for veterans.
The military sometimes takes a one-size-fits-all-approach. With coaching high school kids today, it takes more of an individualized means of dealing with athletes and their needs.
“Coaching and the military are two in the same,” Sampogna explained. “Athletics and coaching need integrity, courage, and hard work in order to be successful. A lot of my coaching values and outlines for codes of conduct came from the military, but were solidified during the MCAA program.”
Concordia University Irvine's Master’s in Coaching and Athletics Administration (MCAA) has proven to be a resourceful outlet for veterans like Sampogna, who are looking to take their military background and apply those experiences to the coaching and administrative careers they have chosen to pursue.
Through the program’s coursework and actual application of the skills they’ve attained, veterans are actively learning how to balance their background with a passion for teaching the next generation of athletes.
“The military sometimes takes a one-size-fits-all-approach,” said Jeff Nelson, a nine-year Army National Guard veteran who served as a medical service officer in Iraq. “With coaching high school kids today, it takes more of an individualized means of dealing with athletes and their needs.”
Many first-time coaches with a military background fall back on instinct and personal experience, which – for veterans – is training athletes like soldiers. It’s a system that they’ve seen firsthand be successful. But the realization is that it’s a system to which not all types of people are accustomed.
Promoting military values – discipline, attention to detail, and determination – are essential in building a team as a whole. On a player-by-player basis, veterans have learned each individual should be motivated in a certain way.
“I have learned the importance of seeing each member of the team as an individual,” said Sarah Alvarado, a United State Marines veteran currently enrolled in the MCAA program. “Figuring out how to best reach that person helps get the most out of his or her performance.”
3 Tips for Transitioning from the Military to Coaching
One Size Does Not Fit All
Coaching – regardless of the level – is about relating to each individual. Figuring out how to best reach each person will enable you to get the most out of his or her performance.
Military Values Certainly Carry Over
Discipline, attention to detail, brotherhood, sacrifice, courage, determination, loyalty, and honesty were a few of the characteristics that CUI veterans say they were instilled with in the military. Those same characteristics make a successful coach.
Find a Balance
First-time coaches with a military background fall back on training athletes like soldiers. It’s something they’ve seen be successful, but it’s not a style everyone is accustomed to. Don’t steer away from it, but be conscious that some athletes aren’t built for it the same way the military engrains that into your DNA.
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