Soldiers To Sidelines honors Retired U.S. Navy Veteran Jarae Thurmond as the Soldiers To Sidelines Soldier Coach of the Month July 2023.  Coach Thurmond deserves this award for his incredible hard work cultivating his passion and craft to inspire and motivate hundreds of young athletes.  Jarae is currently coaching football at Georgia Southern University after years of coaching high school football and climbing the coaching latter.  His story is an inspiration for all service members who want to pursue their passion of coaching sports at the highest level.  


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


Coach Jarae Thurmond: I started coaching High school football in San Diego while I was active duty transitioning from playing semi pro ball (2018-2022). I initially started coaching freshman WR’s as a volunteer. After my first-year coaching, I was promoted to a paid WR coach and the last 2 of the 4 years working at Sweetwater High school, I was promoted to Varsity RB coach. I was fortunate to coach with three 1,000-yard rushers and was on staff of the first playoff winning team in over eight years with back to back metro pacific league championships. 

I transitioned out the military and began as an unpaid volunteer Assistant TE coach here at Georgia Southern in 2022. After 8 months of work, I was hand selected by the head coach (Clay Helton) and appointed a full-time position in the front office.  


My reason for getting into coaching was to make an IMPACT. It means everything to me to imprint positive values upon some amazing young talented athletes already on extraordinary paths. I really feel like this is my purpose, and I absolutely love this University as well as the support of my peers on staff and in the community.  


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


Coach Jarae Thurmond: In my service I thrived in many things, but what I am most proud of was my ability to interact and connect with fellow sailors along the deck plates. In 2020 I was awarded Instructor of the year for my command and squadron. Then in 2021 I was awarded Sailor of the year for my command and squadron. The leadership lessons as well as real world missions and situations prepared me for life as a coach and a mentor to these student athletes.  I also find joy in learning from them as well and watching their growth to their fullest potential.  


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


Coach Jarae Thurmond: The ability to share my faith and foundational core values with these young men has been amazing. I love that I can encourage them to let their light shine. They come by my office, and I share a quote. I am now surprised to come into my office and see they have left a quote or a note on my whiteboard of something motivational they have seen in their travels. There are times where I don’t feel my best, but I can always count on one of the 130 young men in this building to reignite the fire within me to teach and inspire. I am truly living my purpose and my dream. I make sure that each of them knows they are loved and valued and in turn I feel the same organically and unabashedly.  


STS: What are your aspirations in coaching? 


Coach Jarae Thurmond: Since moving over to player relations my career path has taken me to more of a general manager role, and I honestly feel the front office and player relations is best for me. I have my degree in sports management, and I am currently working on my master’s degree in leadership. I intend on working hard at the highest level I can to CREATE VALUE and one day be in the NFL in a similar role if not greater utilizing lessons from every level I have been at as well as my time in service. 


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


Coach Jarae Thurmond: The most difficult challenge I have faced so far in coaching through all these years has been witnessing all the preparation these young men take pride in and hard work they give on and off the field and not always get the desired result. It hurts but I’m grateful to be there to share the sadness and frustration and also let them know that this failure is not fatal or final. There is a lesson we all can learn from knowing that we can give everything we have and check all the boxes and still not get what we want. But, knowing that lord willing, the sun will shine again and we have another opportunity to grow from whatever defeated us but didn’t define or delete us. I learn something new every day interacting with everyone who enters this building. I fought so hard to get here. I came in early mornings and stayed late nights. It was me and the janitorial crew at times, but I found joy in that because I knew just a few years back I dreamed of opportunities like this when I was deployed away from family.  


Soldiers to Sidelines has made such a tremendous impact upon my path and my growth. I remember many phone conversations with Brady Nix  just hearing me out and giving me great guidance. He pointed me in the right direction of some amazing fellow Soldier Coaches.  I remember my interactions with Mr. Harrison Bernstein in the airport after my first convention and how kind and approachable and helpful he has been. It makes me want to give back even more to fellow and future Soldier Coaches. Thank you so much for this prestigious honor.