March 31st, 2023 | Josh Adelman

Soldiers To Sidelines Celebrates its 1000th Soldier Coach by honoring US Army Veteran Kimberly Liszka as the Soldier Coach of the Month. Captain Kim, as she is affectionately called, has been coaching for the past 28 years in various sports. She has coached competitive cheerleading, youth volleyball, Army’s Physical Fitness program, the General’s Wounded Warrior program, youth American Ninja Warrior classes, and extreme endurance athletes.

She earns this award because she commits to coaching herself first so that she can better impact her athletes. She wakes up every morning and gives gratitude to herself and the people in her life. She practices meditation on positivity, passion, and prayer so that she can take that energy out into the world and into her relationships with her family, friends, athletes, and partners. We asked her questions about what inspires her to coach, her military influence, and some fond coaching memories. Here is what she said:

STS: Tell your story about how and why you got into coaching. Discuss how coaching has impacted you as a person.

Captain Kim: “I got into coaching because of my experiences as an athlete! I was able to see the success from the physical and mental preparation and transformation through the years. I learned how to compete as an individual and with a team. I learned unique strategies that I was able to implement on the field and in my personal life. I formed lasting friendships with my fellow athletes and my coaches. I learned skills from my coaches that helped elevate me in my coaching career. I felt so alive and elevated when I performed, and I wanted to provide that to other athletes. I wanted to provide my athletes with similar experiences, successes, and friendships! I wanted to teach them that they are unique and have unforeseen talents that they are going to discover through this process. I wanted to show them that they can become what they dream of.

STS: How has your military experience influenced you as a coach?

Captain Kim: The military taught me disciplines like Leadership, Resilience, and Perseverance which are key attributes to being a successful coach. I was able to watch firsthand how humans react under pressure and how to guide them to a more positive outcome. Basic training was a perfect model of how to unify a team. They were able to take soldiers from different backgrounds, cultures, and dispositions and unify them to perform as a successful team. The drill sergeants led by example and demanded greatness because they knew we were capable of it. The military set the example for my coaching career.

STS: Describe a coaching interaction with a player, or group of players, that has a special place in your heart?

Captain Kim: I remember this like it was yesterday.
I walked into the athlete room and asked the High School athletes what they were here for? What their mission was? What were they trying to achieve? Who was here to be national champions? I had responses that ranged from, I’m here for interim training, I want to be out of the house, I want to hang out with my friends, and I want to be a national champ. Two of my athletes, whom I nicknamed Army and Tank, raised their hands to be national champions.

We invested in that topic, National Champions, why that was their mission, what that looked like to bring to fruition, and how were we going to accomplish that goal.

We developed a solid coach-athlete relationship through invested conversations, frustrations, disappointments, gains, and successes! We went to compete in Nationals in San Diego and celebrated their success with tears and smiles! Years later, I was picked to be on the Military Edition of American Ninja Warrior, and their support was amazing! They submitted a video for me on why I should be a competitor on the show and asked me the same questions I asked them to motivate me on my journey on ANW. It was amazing to watch them coach their former coach! It’s a true testament to what happens when you wholeheartedly invest in your athletes.

I’m so proud of them, and we still keep in touch and encourage and inspire each other years later!

STS: Which player have you coached of which you are most proud of? Why?

Captain Kim: Alfred, nickname Army.
He was so receptive to learning how to be the best version of himself. He listened to my coaching techniques and implemented them with tenacity and confidence, and determination. He was such an inspiration to his teammates and me. He had this outlook on life that was contagious. He knew what he wanted, and he wasn’t afraid to go after it. He would ask for guidance along with guiding his teammates. He empowered me by building a trusting coach/athlete relationship, asking for feedback, and showing appreciation. He went on to enlist in the US Army and has exceeded expectations. He won the National Defense Service Award, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Army Service Medal, among many more.

STS: What was the most difficult challenge you have experienced in coaching, and what have you learned from that experience?

Captain Kim: I’ve learned that when you teach team sports, you can’t treat everyone the same.
I’ve learned that we all are products of our environment, and sometimes that means growing up in difficult situations and unwarranted circumstances. With that comes different personalities, different dispositions, and different talents. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that all humans do things for a reason, and it’s important to uncover those reasons. When an athlete isn’t performing to their level, you need to have conversations and invest in that athlete’s physical and mental health. It takes time and patience, but the outcome is worth it. I’ve learned if you start with the athlete and wholeheartedly invest in them, let them have a voice, let them be seen, and give them a purpose, everything else falls into place. When you provide security, morality, and belonging to your athlete, the rest builds upon itself.