Training Log

Starting Strength in the Real World

Veterans and Coaching

by Capt James Rodgers | August 15, 2023

shoes for the role - military or coaching

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 want:

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 worlds.

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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