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STS Coach of the Month April 2022

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April 28th, 2022 | Josh Adelman

This April, we honor US Army Veteran Austin Sanders with the Soldiers To Sidelines Coach of the Month award for his selfless service as a football coach at Kadena High School on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Austin has only been officially coaching football for one year. He has gone above and beyond to provide a quality football-playing experience for kids who don’t have the same resources as domestic students. Coach Sanders lives in Okinawa, Japan, because his wife is still stationed on active duty there. He is there to support her military career and serve as an impactful coach to the kids who must live abroad with their military families.

Austin believes in the tremendous power of great coaches because he was fortunate to learn from the best. “We owe everything to the leaders and mentors who developed us along our personal journeys, says Sanders.”

“I was lucky enough to have coaches who pushed me to be the best man possible every day. Playing football set the mental and physical foundation for my time as an Infantry Officer with the 101st Airborne Division and 75th Ranger Regiment. I want future generations to have the same experience and opportunities to achieve their goals.”

It was natural for Austin to begin coaching after separating from the US Army in 2021. His military experience provided the essential tools to be an effective coach. “The military taught me to take an honest look in the mirror, identify my weaknesses, and create a concrete improvement plan. It is human nature to shy away from your weak points and to focus on what you are already good at doing. The same philosophy is critical to being a good coach. I try to teach this lesson to the young men that I coach. I want our athletes to be well-rounded individuals on the field, in the classroom, and in their communities.”

Coach Sanders shares an example that makes him proud of his ability to produce well-rounded young men. “Two brothers on our team taught me a lesson about humility. They would help lead us to a tough-fought victory and then be the first to help the team managers carry the coolers and team equipment off the field. They treated every practice like it was game day. Their intensity, passion, and discipline were a bright light for the entire team.”

These character-building opportunities make all the hard work worthwhile. It is challenging when you begin coaching an American sport abroad during a pandemic. “DoDEA Schools in Japan did not allow any organized football activities from March 2020 – August 2021. With 17 months off football for most of the team, the coaching staff was back to square one, teaching the fundamentals while prioritizing keeping the players safe. We had four weeks to prepare our team for the season’s first game. We emphasized focus and discipline in every aspect of our lives for the next three months. Take advantage of every opportunity in life because you never know when it will be your last.”

Last year, Coach Sanders received an excellent dose of coaching fuel while working his tail off to coach the right way. One day one of his players introduced him to his mother. The player said, “Mom, please meet my MENTOR, Coach Sanders.” Austin reflects on this precious moment and says, “While it is easy to get caught up in the wins and losses, the impact we leave on others is what will be remembered years down the road.”

Soldiers To Sidelines is happy to honor our Soldier Coaches who are committed to building citizens of character both domestically and abroad. Austin Sanders deserves the April 2022 Coach of the Month Award because of his selfless approach to coaching. He is coaching in a place where football is scarce, and available coaches are thin.

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