As part of the NFL's Salute to Service week, the New York Jets hosted the 4th Annual Solider to Sidelines (STS) Coaching Certification Clinic Presented by Verizon.
The week-long program supported by the Jets and Verizon provided active duty, military veterans, military spouses, and gold star families from all branches an opportunity to receive their STS football coaching certification and become character-based sports coaches in their communities.
"We are extremely honored to partner with the New York Jets and the Soldiers to Sidelines Coaching Certification program," Tony Wells, Verizon senior vice president of marketing said "There is no greater calling than one of service to your country. The skills veterans acquire through their years of service is what makes them integral to the communities they serve. Verizon and its 8,000-plus V Team Veteran employees salute our Veterans and their families for answering this call and ensuring the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Thank you to all Veterans for your sacrifice, your bravery, and your strength."
The workshop featured 84 participants and was led by the Soldiers to Sidelines founder and former New York Jets Intern Coach Harrison Bernstein. Bernstein has served as executive director since 2014 and helped hundreds of veterans "discover a renewed sense of purpose in their communities" as coaches.
"Some folks just want to connect and coach kids in the community," Bernstein said. "Some want to get more involved in the community at the youth or high school level. And then some want to make this their career where it's their primary source of income. The Soldiers to Sidelines program helps them do that."
The rigorous and educational first five sessions ran virtually from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Oct. 30 to Nov. 4 and featured presentations given by coaches and front office members from the high school, college and professional levels. They taught on several topics, broke down film, told personal stories and answered questions about their experiences in football.
"We have had such a great staff of presenters," Bernstein said. "We have had guys from all sorts of levels. We have guys from Division I, Division II, Division III, and then some of our soldier coaches who have come through our program, we've helped them get college jobs, and now they're giving back and presenting.
"This course and curriculum are based on science and everyone else's research in the space. We have had so much great input. Think sports, think psychology, think biomechanics, think emotional intelligence, think communication, the way we are delivering this information that allows us to inspire."
Jets GM Joe Douglas, whose father and uncles served, joined Thursday's sessions and spoke about the values of the military and how impactful it was on his life and took questions.
"Joe heard about the concept and has been very appreciative of the effort and the mission," Bernstein said. "He has gotten involved and been great for us."
Based on exploratory qualitative data analysis of past clinics, many of the participants have been empowered and inspired to take coaching and leadership roles in their own communities. The experience has proven to provide veterans with purposeful work serving their communities.
"The presenters, the material and the hope are enough to keep me fighting the good fight for the youth of America on the field," said one participant.
Another added: "Soldiers to Sidelines has inspired me to be a better leader, coach and manager in my daily life while also pursuing a new road in coaching sports. Many of the leadership concepts that we learn as young soldiers are reinforced and made to fit the civilian world making us better coaches, bosses, and most importantly parents."
To conclude the week, the Jets will host the participants at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center Saturday morning and honor them Sunday when the Jets host the Bills at MetLife Stadium.
"It's honestly indescribable," Bernstein said about the soldiers being recognized. "How can you actually put words to this? … The skills of military service translate to becoming great coaches in the community. And our veterans and service members, they're not done serving just because you lead the leave military service. You can still serve your country as a coach and to have a full stadium recognize that is awe-inspiring."