Untapped Talent: Unleashing the Power of America’s Bravest

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Untapped Talent: Unleashing the Power of America’s Bravest

For me, this mission has always been personal. 

I spent the better part of four years fighting sandstorms and fending off the enemy during my deployment to Iraq as a U.S. Marine. But my biggest battle began when I returned home.

It was 2008 and I started the post-military job search in the midst of the great recession. It was a struggle for me to find employment. There were hourly wage and entry-level things, but I couldn’t find meaningful career opportunities.

If only I’d known that I was an ideal recruit for a college hockey program…

I’ve been saying it for a long time. Coaches scouring the country, looking for high school students who can be molded into the ideal athletes for their system, are missing a massively untapped market: the United States Military.  

These men and women have spent the last few years of their lives being broken down and rebuilt into warriors.  They understand the importance of being a finely-tuned teammate and how to function as a part of that team in order to accomplish a common mission.  They know that there are no excuses for failure. Some of these men and women will find their way to college after service, some might even find their way onto a team. But most, like me, never even know it is a possibility.

The general perception is that veterans are broken or need to be helped.  How can they compete in collegiate athletics after service?  How can we support them on campus? Are they going to be a liability?  The reality is, they aren’t broken. They don’t need any additional support beyond any other college student.  They need purpose.  They need their next team and they thirst for another mission to accomplish.  They want the structure collegiate athletics provides; with detailed schedules of training, practice, studying films, and the guys or girls to the left and right of them all working towards the common goal.  That’s where they are in their element, the environment they have already learned how to excel in.  

As a former Marine, I know the challenges these men and women face during transition first hand. I founded Athletes of Valor to build upon and display the value that these pinnacle athletes can bring to campus as student-athletes. Not only do they have the physical ability, but the educational benefits they bring with them are so strong that they essentially come equipped with a full scholarship. 

At Athletes of Valor, we provide the platform for active duty military athletes to market themselves to coaches and schools, highlighting how all of their experience will make them a valuable asset to any team. By allowing them to recognize and leverage their value, we ensure they don’t just jump on the first job opportunity after service–which might not be best for their long-term success.  We encourage using their unparalleled experience and benefits to their advantage and reaching higher levels than they ever imagined.

Some will find their way to college, and others may even find their way onto a team, but most veterans never learn of how uncomplicated it is to find a spot on a collegiate athletic team.  Athletes of Valor was founded to remedy that situation. We are the connective platform for these dedicated military athletes who are transitioning to civilian life and the many colleges and universities across the country that would benefit by having them as active participants on their school teams.

There are programs for Veterans out there, nobody is denying that, and I have used some of them.  However, transitioning military members come from all walks of life and there needs to be specific programs available that cater to each of their individual needs.  As a 22-year-old, my transitional path was going to be different from the 30-year-old man who served 12 years and has a wife and family to support.  We are evolving this process and it starts with the athletes for multiple reasons.  With the student athlete graduation rate at over 85% according to the NCAA, there is no doubt we can boost the likelihood of a veteran graduating with a degree and finding meaningful employment, simply by being part of a team. 

Athletes of Valor recognizes that the military is full of service people who put their athletic careers on hold to join. Still, they are not only doing their duty, but they are developing at the same time.  They are committing themselves to excellence as soldiers, but they are also committing themselves to building their bodies and minds to be the best that they can be.  Many veteran’s found purpose in the military, a purpose that they didn’t find in High School.  When confronted with challenges, they found a solution, not an escape, and unleashed their potential.  

It’s time to reveal unknown, undervalued and unappreciated veteran-athletes.