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Why Veterans Make For Great Sports Coaches

Sally Perkins explains why veterans potentially make good sports coaches.

Veterans make up a substantial and valuable part of the workforce throughout the world; the UK estimates that by 2028 there will be 1.6 million Armed Forces veterans, while in the US the predicted figure stands at 15.5 million.  For many veterans, a subsequent career in sports coaching can be a fantastic way to encourage the next generation, share their passion for physical activity, mental strength, and discipline, and maintain their health at the same time. If, as a veteran, you are wondering what you can offer your local athletics club or sports team, here are just a few thoughts. 

Modelling resilience

Due to their experiences, veterans have a huge amount to teach and demonstrate in terms of mental resilience. A recent study has highlighted the perception of mental health problems among elite athletes and the associated reluctance to seek help.

As a veteran leading the coaching, you are uniquely placed to spot athletes who could use a little help and remove any stigma from talking about their mental health. Many veterans are living with injuries or PTSD, sometimes to the point where they are eligible to receive disability benefits to supplement their income, taking into account the scale of their injuries and any dependents they are supporting. This means they know firsthand how disheartening physical setbacks or emotional concerns can be.

Modelling this resilience and determination to keep achieving no matter what is also hugely inspirational in itself, and can be a great example for athletes who are trying to overcome injuries or career disappointments.

Commitment to physical fitness

A career in the military calls for an incredibly high standard of physical fitness, and the discipline and stamina to reach and maintain that standard consistently. In one study of adolescent rugby players, those who were supervised by a coach improved in body composition, strength, vertical jump, and acceleration, reaching higher standards than the rugby players who were left unsupervised.

Coaching can help young athletes to train harder and more effectively. However, imagine if that coach had been a veteran. Think of the expectations they might have had and the motivation that they could provide. It could be just the push your squad needs.

Belief in teamwork

Another central pillar of military life is the belief in teamwork. As a sports coach, one of your responsibilities is to instill that same belief and to recognise and utilise individual athletes' strengths. From placing people in the right spots on the field, to knowing which track and field events suit which athletes better, part of coaching is about managing the team and unlocking the potential in each athlete.


Effective sports coaches need to be able to model mental resilience, motivate their athletes to achieve peak physical fitness, and instill that belief in teamwork that holds great sports teams together.

Military veterans make ideal sports coach candidates, given their life experiences and personal characteristics. Perhaps even more crucially, they can command respect on and off the field for their courage, determination, and strength.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • PERKINS, S. (2020) Why Veterans Make For Great Sports Coaches [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years of experience across many different areas. She made a move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.