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SOLDIERS
ON THE SIDELINES


The Texas A&M University Veterans Coaching Program helps members of the armed forces transition from military service to careers in coaching and teaching.

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By Bailey Payne ‘19

Nate Young

Robert “Nate” Young ’23 traces the start of his military journey to a hotel balcony in Panama City Beach, Florida. He and his friends drove to the beachy locale days after graduating from their small-town high school in East Tennessee. Leaning on the balcony, Young watched the sun sink into the horizon and felt the reality of the years ahead sink in with it. “I thought, ‘Man, what am I going to do?’” Young remembers. But just as quickly as he questioned his life trajectory, he realized his calling and resolved to bring it to fruition. “ I wanted to join the military.”

After he enlisted in January 2001, Young’s get-down-to-business philosophy proved a perfect fit for the U.S. Army and eventually the Green Berets. As coordinator of the Texas A&M University Veterans Coaching Program (VCP), Young is putting his more than 20 years of special forces experience to use.

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NATE YOUNG’S NEW MISSION:

Helping other veterans build careers coaching young athletes to their highest potential.

The VCP exists within the Thornton-McFerrin Coaching Academy, which Dorothy McFerrin and the Artie and Dorothy McFerrin Foundation recently named with a $3 million gift. Its other namesake, Dr. John Thornton ’75, has directed the academy since its 2012 inception, helping train the mentors of tomorrow.

Thornton was captain of the basketball team while attending Texas A&M and has been a monumental figure in the university’s athletics department since his return as an assistant under his former head coach, Shelby Metcalf, in 1981. As a coach and later a senior athletic administrator, Thornton strongly encouraged students to get involved and build strength in the weight room and the classroom alike. “I wanted to help student-athletes and future coaches see the difference they could make,” he said. “If you can do that, it opens a door for them the rest of their lives.”

In line with Thornton’s relationship-based approach, the VCP strives to foster coaches who can train athletes in the fundamentals of their sport while teaching interpersonal skills to create trust amongst their team, emotional skills that promote mental health and core values that develop leaders of character. For service members transitioning into civilian life, the program also offers personalized mentoring and resources for degree planning, job placement and vocational certificates.

Monty Gibson ’03, an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Cleveland Browns and a consultant for the academy, believes veterans make for uniquely qualified coaches. “They have the necessary physical skills, but more importantly, they have unmatched leadership experience,” Gibson said. Young echoed him, emphasizing the program’s potential to lend credibility to veteran job candidates. “When programs are hiring and they see someone who already has real-world leadership experience and the Texas A&M name behind them, they know they’re not just getting a great coach, but also a great person,” he said.

When programs are hiring and they see the Texas A&M name, they know they’re not just getting a great coach, but also a great person.”

Nate Young ‘23

AMBER LOVE ‘23

Photo of amber Photo of amber

One such prospect, Amber Love ’23, sees the program as a unique opportunity to build a life helping others after their military careers. A Chicago native, Love played basketball religiously but struggled to build a foundation for herself outside the sport. After her close friend’s tragic death amid inner-city violence, she saw the military as a way out. During her more than 17 years in the U.S. Army, Love discovered a knack for coaching, taking basketball teams of local middle school girls and adult men on base to great success in their respective leagues.

Inspired after watching the Netflix documentary series “Last Chance U” and seeing academic advisor Brittany Wagner change students’ lives on screen, Love decided she had found her career path. After meeting Young through a mutual connection, she enrolled in Texas A&M and the VCP and is working toward her second master’s degree in sport management with dreams of advising high school and college students. “I’m studying what I love to do,” she said. “It’s not about the money for me. I care about the impact I have on these kids and young adults.”

I’m studying what I love to do. It’s not about the money for me. I care about the impact I have on these kids and young adults.”

Amber Love ‘23

I’m studying what I love to do. It’s not about the money for me. I care about the impact I have on these kids and young adults.”

Amber Love ‘XX

As a new initiative, the VCP has several opportunities for development. Currently, the program seeks funds for paid graduate assistantships and scholarships that would help recruit and retain high-principled veteran students. This support would boost the VCP’s reach and provide a solid foundation for enterprising veterans like Young and Love entering the program in the future.

In Young’s eyes, the best way to serve those who have served their country is to provide them meaningful opportunities to serve others. “When I talk to veterans about this program, I don’t sell anything,” he said. “I tell them my story, and I tell them exactly how we can help them. Usually, after about 10 minutes, they’re already hooked.”

When I talk to veterans about this program, I don’t sell anything. I tell them my story, and I tell them exactly how we can help them.”

Nate Young ‘23

To learn how you can play a role in supporting the Veterans Coaching Program and the Thornton-McFerrin Coaching Academy in the College of Education and Human Development, contact Jody Ford ’99, senior director of development, below.

Contact
  • Jody Ford '99

  • Senior Director of Development
  • College of Education and Human Development
  • Call: 979.847.8655

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