Coaching involves assessing the competition, identifying weaknesses, and capitalizing on personal strengths to secure victory. By that measure, it shares a lot with military strategy.
First Lieutenant Justine Emge, an Army Reservist, recognizes those similarities and is putting her military background to use as a student in the Ohio University Master of Coaching Education (MCE) online program. Her target: a successful career as a women’s triathlon coach.
Athletics has long played a role in Emge’s life. She competed in her first triathlon at 9 years old and was later offered a scholarship to swim at the Division 1 level for Ohio University. Balancing academics and athletics led to burnout, Emge said, and she left collegiate competition to finish her degree elsewhere. However, her love of athletics remained, and she now represents the U.S. military in Olympic-distance triathlons at international competitions.
When she is not training to swim, bike, or run, Emge is an Army Reservist helicopter pilot based in Kansas City, MO. She is also in the process of becoming an airline pilot with Trans States Airlines. Ideally, Emge, who is in her second year of MCE studies, would like to coach a women’s triathlon team, possibly at a military-focused institution such as West Point.
The decision to go into coaching blends well with Emge’s military training. “I’ve always been the physical fitness officer in my military unit,” she says. “They kind of went hand in hand.”
In the military, personal training (PT) is a very big thing, says Emge, and the emphasis carries over into athletic coaching.
“Right now, I’m in a risk management class, and that’s something that we do in the military,” she says. “Every activity that we do, it’s PT — you always do risk management.”
Other similarities include the program’s emphasis on both structure and positive pedagogy. “It is a lot of stuff that I grew up with in elite athletics,” says Emge.
Emge also sees benefits of introducing the civilian side of OHIO’s coaching strategy and curriculum into the athletic realm of the military. “The military is really 20 years behind in a lot of their literature,” she says. “I’m bringing all this new information about positive coaching and building people up where the culture is just very backward.”
The convenient flexibility of the program helps her work toward a degree while pursuing her other passions in life. The program’s use of education technology like Blackboard, for instance, makes it a very mobile-friendly learning environment. “The fact that I travel a lot, it makes it easy to do this stuff wherever,” says Emge.
Earning her degree from a remote location has not altered Emge’s connection to the program.
“I have a couple friends that I met at residency week, and when we’re in the same discussion boards together we’ll text each other,” she says. “We’ll be like: ‘Hey, I just responded to you. I found this really cool article. I posted it in the discussion board and you should go read it.’ You have that community there too.”
One article that stands out to Emge focused on how previous generations of coaches did not have access to a master’s-level education in coaching.
“I think it’s great to have all these outlets,” she says of the variety of classes offered in the MCE program. “I think coaching’s very much an art form. But the more tools you have in your toolkit, [the more it] will help you solve problems instead of just being very straight and narrow.”
When choosing where to pursue her master’s in coaching, Emge examined a variety of options and found OHIO’s MCE program to be the best fit.
“I thought OHIO’s program was cost-effective, which is important, especially in coaching,” she says. “Most coaches don’t make a lot.”
With all that Emge has going on in her life, her time is valuable, and she feels that the MCE program at OHIO was the most effective choice. “I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time or that it’s busy work,” she says.
The interaction she has had with professors has also been an asset to her professional growth.
“There’s really good feedback from the professors,” she says. “They’re really personable and easy to get in touch with.”
Being able to coach the next generation of athletes is important to Emge, and Ohio University is helping her reach that goal.
“I attribute a lot of my success and the success of the people I’ve coached to sports and being tough,” she says. “I think that’s important for us as coaches — to keep on going.”
About Ohio University’s Master of Coaching Education (MCE) Online Program
Ohio University’s online Master of Coaching Education online program offers curriculum that includes psychology, management, and leadership. It is nationally recognized for preparing coaches to excel at all levels of competition.
The program’s online format offers students the opportunity to earn a degree while avoiding career disruptions that can occur with a traditional classroom setting. For more information, visit Ohio University’s MCE page.