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Military & Veteran Resources

Finding a sense of purpose after transitioning from the military to civilian life can be challenging for even the most agile of servicemembers. But for the past seven years, Soldiers to Sidelines (STS) has been offering a way for veterans and military spouses to apply their leadership skills to community service – and in turn, find a new sense of meaning by becoming “Soldier Coaches” and coaching youth sports. “One aspect of the military is the selfless service of all the members, no matter what position you’re in,” said Will Huff, Director of Partnerships, Soldiers to Sidelines, and a US Army veteran.

“When we transition…it’s identifying what’s going to give you that purpose again, what is going to inspire you. For myself and many of my colleagues from the military, we would often discuss…leadership development. What did you learn in your youth that shaped the leader that you became? One of the unifying experiences was being an athlete. At Soldiers to Sidelines, we continue to facilitate that growth.”

Specifically, the organization offers would-be Soldier Coaches initial training seminars to guide them in how to approach youth coaching. Once coaches are certified, there are frequent in-person workshops, online seminars, and networking opportunities where STS coaches can continue to learn, evolve, and connect with the coach community.

When Rashawn Quinzy first heard about STS, he was dubious. Yes, he was anxious about re-entering civilian life after 21 years in the US Army – but didn’t know anything about coaching. When a neighbor asked if he wanted to coach youth basketball, “I said ‘absolutely not,’” he recalled. “I had no idea what I was doing – or I thought I didn’t. But [my neighbor] reassured me, ‘your military skills translate directly, especially for leadership, which is what most kids need.’”

Quinzy expected his training to be focused on court strategies, drills, and other technical aspects of basketball coaching. Instead, the training was human-driven, focusing less on how to play basketball, per se, and more on how to make a real impact in young people’s lives.

“I didn’t think about the intangibles,” he said. “How to inspire, how to motivate, convey a compelling why.”

In Quinzy’s first year as a Soldier Coach, he was paired with a team that had struggled competitively. Yet, as the months went on, he got to know the players well. One of them, for example, was in foster care – just like Quinzy had been. Quinzy coached according to what motivated each one, and led the team to become division champions.

“It was the same group of kids, but with different mentorship and guidance,” he said.

For Marine wife Amy Schweizer, who founded the development program Tiny Troops Soccer, STS was a way to help others expand on what her organization was already promoting. When Schweizer first connected with Soldiers to Sidelines, she underwent the coach training – and helped STS recognize that military spouses could benefit from their work, too.

Among the sponsors that make Soldiers to Sidelines possible is National University (NU). Veteran-founded in 1971 to help active-duty soldiers, veterans, and military spouses achieve  their academic goals, NU is distinct not only in its origins, but also in its focus on both the personal and professional aspects of veterans’ lives and those of the military community at  large.

“At National University, we have Five Pillars of Support that [comprise] the Whole Human Education approach that we have with our students,” said Desiree Butts, the university’s  executive Director, Strategic Partnerships, Military & VA. The school’s Five Pillars include Financial (scholarships and financial aid), Academic (from free tutoring to 1:1 faculty mentoring), Career (which includes networking and career services), Family & Community (work-life balance programs, student organizations, and a community connection point), and Social & Emotional (which includes wellness resources and on-demand mental health counseling).

Together, said Butts, these Pillars support students beyond just their academics. And when it comes to Soldiers to Sidelines, she said, NU is supporting the military family life and community. That support has been invaluable to people like Soldier Coach Quinzy, who has found a new sense of fulfillment through his coaching.

“When you transition from the military, especially when you’ve been doing it for 21 years, there’s an empty space there,” he said. “You lose that tribe of people. You lose that sense of purpose – why am I getting up every morning? Soldiers to Sidelines and coaching gave me that renewed purpose in life.”

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