Veterans and Coaching
by Capt James Rodgers | August 15, 2023
Joining the armed forces will be a massive formative event for a
young man or woman who goes through the indoctrination process of
basic training. Individuality is deliberately stripped away and they
are forced into a very regimented lifestyle. Every aspect of their
appearance and behavior is heavily scrutinized, and infractions are
immediately punished. Intense pressure is put upon the recruits to
conform to the organizational culture. Social pressure is exerted
upon the platoons of recruits in the form of group punishments for
errors, laziness, and misbehavior. The standard is simple,
achievable, and rigorously enforced.
Once basic training is
completed, a young soldier will proceed to a specific school to learn
the necessary skills to perform his assigned functions. The
discipline will become less severe in this phase, but the performance
of technical standards to be achieved for success will be much
higher. The only way to successfully learn and perform at the level
needed to pass in the compressed time frame of trade training is to
implicitly trust all of the doctrine, procedures and conventions as
true and correct. Critical thinking is a hindrance because it will
slow down the execution of the drill. For young officers, the
training process is intellectually rigorous. They are expected to
quickly learn and apply intellectual procedures to digest large
amounts of incomplete information and direction, and then use it to
form, communicate, and execute plans.
While all of this
training is happening, the recruits are having a new ethos drilled
into their heads. Sacrifice. Excellence. Determination. Courage.
Aggression. Obedience. These ethos are the glue that holds the
organization together. It is difficult to convince someone that it is
in their best interests to run across a mortar fire-swept field
without this. As a new soldier or a young officer completes training
and serves his career, he will be responsible for modeling these
ethos and for inculcating them in those junior to himself.
This will carry on for
several years, until one day he has completed his terms of service
and is now a civilian again. Poof ! – the structure and
expectations are gone, but he will probably be dealing with some
physical and mental ailments brought on by the exigencies of the
service. A huge problem will be the lack of a purpose. He has been
indoctrinated at a young age and the transition from a very
regimented life to a free life is difficult. Demanding, structured
jobs with a clear hierarchy and procedures will be attractive to a
veteran, whereas free flowing and creative jobs will be
uncomfortable. I am never surprised when I see a veteran join the
police. I am surprised when I see one become a visual artist.
Now this lack of
structure in life can cause veterans to not fit in when they try to
integrate into the civilian workforce. It can look like a lack of
motivation or depression, substance abuse, or irritation and
confusion with their new colleagues. At the same time, a veteran
might not want to join a paramilitary organization like the police,
because he wants more personal freedom for his schedule and family
life than being an officer of the law would allow. He wants something
with structure, but also allows for personal freedom.
The following is a
series of reasons why military veterans should consider employment as
coaches at Starting Strength Gyms, since it will provide an excellent
mixture of the structure they need with the personal freedom they
1. Sense of Purpose:
the Starting Strength coaching positions are there for one reason; to
get clients’ lifts in line with the model and to get them stronger.
No mushy mission statements, no corporate fluff. Everything is
straight forward, there is a job to do and you are there to do it.
2. Job Satisfaction:
you get to see the results of your work in real time. If you do a
good job, it shows. If you do a bad job, it shows. So do a good job
and feel good about it.
3. Ethos: Starting
Strength has its own distinct corporate culture. The values learned
in the service will be welcomed and encouraged, while personal
freedom will be encouraged and respected. It’s the best of both
4. Structure: Starting
Strength Gyms are extremely structured. Everything is planned out.
Expectations are clear. All of the clients know what they are
supposed to do on a particular day. The plates are shiny and need to
be polished on a regular basis to stay shiny. You don’t want to
admit it, but you’ll love that.
5. No Nonsense: there
has been a lot of corrosive social-political nonsense introduced into
the armed forces over the last five years or so. Starting Strength
corporate culture will repel the type of people who like this
corrosive social-political nonsense, and that’s just fine. They are
welcome to go ruin some other company foolish enough to employ them.
6. Fresh Organization:
the franchise gyms are only a few years old and are expanding
rapidly. There is not an ossified bureaucracy stifling innovation. If
you have a better idea, articulate it, test it, prove it and it will
be adopted if it makes sense.
7. Social Skills: the
social skills that you developed spending hours a day for months on
end standing around waiting for something to happen will be very
useful when interacting with clients in between their sets. You will
need to dial back the gallows humor lest normal people think that you
are suicidally depressed.
8. Red Tape: nope.
9. Challenge: you
probably did something silly like join the Armed Forces because you
wanted to do something hard, and challenges like that are missing in
civilian life. The training you will be expected to do as an
apprentice at a Starting Strength Gym is very hard. It is very
difficult to earn the Starting Strength Coach credential. Few people
have the aptitude and determination to get it. Do you?
My last day in the Army
was on July 13th 2023 and I will move to apprentice at Starting Strength Oklahoma City on August 21st 2023. I strongly recommend that
any veterans, or soon to be veterans, who are unhappy with their
current employment and still have some drive left consider giving
coaching a try.
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