During most of my service in the U.S. Army I was not physically fit. I passed my record biannual Army Physical Fitness Tests (APFT) and met height and weight standards. In fact, I was praised by my leaders for my “fitness.” This is because I typically weighed 25 pounds under the maximum weight for my age, gender and height without being “taped” (body composition test with tape measure). My APFT average varied from 220 – 240 out of a possible 300 points. Where is the issue? These assessments have little or nothing to do with the physical demands required of a Soldier.
I came to this realization after a wakeup call. I mean this in a literal sense as I was regaining consciousness during an intensive training course. My “fitness” did not translate into performance when placed under the real world demands of my way of life. After this event I dedicated myself to acknowledging the weaknesses in my physical performance and overcoming them.
Eventually, after a lot of education, training, commitment and hard work I achieved those standards which I felt short of. My minimum score on the APFT did not fall below 270 my last three years of service. More importantly I had strength and movement qualities which were required by my occupation and unit’s mission.
That’s it then, right? I have credibility because I achieved physical performance excellence. The classic “rags to riches” story we Americans love. Wrong. Physical performance in and of itself does not make you a coach any more than being a great coach makes one a great athlete.
Towards the end of my Army career I had greater access to fitness equipment. Power platforms. Turf. GHDs. Keiser racks. You name it. However, the pièce de résistance was access to Strength Coaches. These guys had all the letters behind their names. They knew the right people. They had the resumes. One slight problem: They refused to work with me. They refused to work with my subordinate Non Commissioned Officers. They refused to work with my junior Enlisted Soldiers.
At first this struck me as odd since these men were Department of Defense Contractors paid to do exactly what I asked of them. It was even stranger considering the fact my brother Soldiers and I guarded these men and their families so they could do their jobs. Strange indeed.
Then I realized something, these “coaches” only sought to work with athletes who appeased their egos. Their egos demanded they not debase themselves working with those who needed help but those who were already “elite” performers. They had no time for the likes of me.
This presented a problem. My fellow Soldiers were not getting the benefit of coaching to better themselves as Tactical Athletes and the “coaches” refused service. Someone had to get it done and that is the role and charge of a Non Commissioned Officer. Simple problem; simple solution.
I took on the challenge head long. Could it be done? Sure. Want a Master’s Degree in Sports and Health Sciences while on Active Duty? Kiss your nights and weekends goodbye. Want to earn coaching certification? Fill out DA 31 and kiss your beer money goodbye. Is it worth the cost to help the Soldier on your left and your right? It is worth every minute and every penny you invest.
I went to every seminar or course I could find. Everywhere I went there was a nugget of truth. There was also a lot of flair and posturing. There was success. There was ego crushing failure. There was learning. I came back and shared my experiences. I gave answers. Some did not like the answer they got. Some listened. I promised myself I would not let a Soldier fall through the cracks and would help those in need. I fulfilled that promise.
Wonderful. Now the story has reached it conclusion. Our hero slayed the fitness beast, explored the cave of hyper marketed fitness regimens, dodged the snares of unprofessionalism and brought back the sacred coaching talisman. Nonsense.
I’ve fallen short. I’ve over-coached. I’ve under-coached. I’ve fallen victim to the siren song of my own ego. I’ve had the privilege to work with athletes who placed their trust in me. I’ve made connections with athletes that led to performance gains.
The point is just as with my physical fitness I have failed. I acknowledged the failure and sought to destroy the weakness. This blog is not a tome of unquestionable knowledge. This is a log book of my evolution as a Tactical Strength Coach. It is my intent to share my experience so that others do not pay for mistakes I have already made.
I am here to be of service to you.