The core values that the U.S. military instills in its members project a healthy country; this is why military institutions must hold on to their values. Service members are instilled with values such as: integrity, loyalty, duty, respect, honor and self-service, and indeed honoring them becomes a way of life in the military.
For the same reasons that the military holds on to its core values, youth organizations like the Boys Scouts, Young American Football League (YAFL) and the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) also hold these same values sacred. As prior military members these values never really leave us after we exit active duty service; they are just refocused in our civilian lives. Any prior service member thinking about becoming a coach for a youth athletic organization should know that every new coach goes through a training program to learn the fundamentals of coaching. These crash courses in coaching are usually one weekend or two spent learning the rules of the game and how to best teach kids to play it. They are designed to give new coaches enough skill to coach young children usually below the age of 12, through three or four practices a week and one game with an opposing team on weekends. What cannot be learned in such a short amount of time is a core value belief system that as a prior military member you already possess.
As a youth soccer coach, I had an opportunity to work with kids by using the game of soccer as a means to help teach kids about the core values I learned as a Marine Corps officer. This was an incredibly rewarding experience and one which I will never forget. Oftentimes in sports we send our children the wrong message by creating a culture of winning at any cost. Indeed, the similarities between war and sports are many, with terms like “the shotgun” and “blitz” in football. A baseball player with a strong arm is said to have a “cannon,” and in basketball you score points by shooting. This is where the similarity ends and the belief in teaching young athletes the value of fair and honest competition begins. Many parents and even coaches have this mentality, and we have all seen images in the news of harassing behavior during a youth athletic event. Survey USA conducted a survey of parents regarding violence in youth sports and found that 55 percent of the participants witnessed verbal altercations involving parents. As a prior military member you have the ability to see past the mentality of winning at any cost by teaching the core values you learned in the military.
Anyone can be taught to learn the basic rules of youth athletics, whatever the sport may be. But it is the respect of your military core value beliefs that set you aside as someone who is well-suited to work with children as a coach and mentor. Emphasizing sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline and responsibility helps set the example for the kids, as well as the parents. Encouraging proper code of conduct through modeled behavior will help curb violence and bad behavior both on and off the field.