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Captain Tony Soika, CSCS
Captain Tony Soika has a unique background in both the military and strength and conditioning settings. He currently commands a company of 241 soldiers at Fort Jackson, SC. Prior to this assignment; he served as the Training Management Officer at the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School where he worked on redesigning the Army Physical Fitness Test and rewriting the army fitness manual. He has been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist® (CSCS®) since 1996, has served as a strength coach in Division I athletics, and trained athletes at every level from high school to the NFL and NBA. He currently serves on the Editorial Review Panel for the TSAC Report.
1. What tactical population do you currently work with?
Army trainees recently graduated from basic training.
2. How did you get started in the TSAC (Tactical Strength and Conditioning) field?
After leaving active duty to return to college, I entered the army reserve. I became a strength and conditioning coach for over 10 years and was later recalled to active duty. I brought my skill set back into the army and was selected by a three-star general to help design a new physical fitness test.
3. What resources do you utilize for continuing education? Are there any sources you would recommend staying away from?
Conferences, speaking engagements. I am not a fan of online or correspondence work. I believe the best way to experience is by doing, and the best way to learn from others is by talking. You can’t do that on a computer.
4. If you where hiring someone in your field, what would you look for?
Maturity – you may be entry-level but you’re still a professional. I once flew in a graduate student to interview him for a position at a sports performance clinic I owned near Green Bay. His resume was exceptional so it was really his job to lose ... He lost it [because] he showed up in a suit with sandals on his feet. His reason? He forgot his shoes at home. Okay, mistakes happen, that wasn’t a deal breaker. But he arrived the night before. It never occurred to you to call a cab from the hotel and go buy a pair of shoes? Professionals know how to adapt and problem-solve. A female athletic trainer that we were interested in brought her boyfriend to the job interview. Another young man, when I asked what his professional goals were said “I just take life one day at a time; I don’t really have any goals.” Far too many new grads just want a job, ANY job, because they have student loans and bills. You know what? Businesses don’t exist for YOU to make money. When you’re hired, YOU make the business money and they pay you from that revenue. If your presence doesn’t generate more than they could make without you, you’re not worth much.
You enter this field because it’s who you are and what you love. Keep that mentality and the money will come. I want to see maturity above all else – an intrinsically motivated and driven professional.
5. Please describe the regular duties included in your position?
I command approximately 250 army trainees aged 18-34 (typically 18-21) and approximately a dozen cadre aged 29-52.
6. What are the two most important things you have learned; that you wish you knew when you were starting your career?
I don’t know that it necessarily pertained to me when I was starting out, but one common thing I see in TSAC is that we have a lot of people who did not necessarily study Exercise Science in college, and therefore are a little behind in understanding energy systems, biomechanics, and especially, periodization.
7. What recommendations would you give someone who is looking to start a career in TSAC?
Get a degree in Exercise Science, preferably a Master’s degree, from a school that is well known in the industry (e.g., Springfield College, Ball State University, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, etc.). Learn your field backward and forward and constantly be thinking critically and analytically; if you are training someone who is diabetic and today is a speed workout, what are the implications?
8. What do you believe are the top three physical requirements for this population that must be addressed in a proper TSAC program?
Speed/power, core strength, and coordination/proprioception.
9. What steps do you go through when writing a program for the population you work with?
Needs analysis, goals, fast-twitch before slow, large muscles before small, and I’m constantly asking myself “How could I make this more functional?”
10. What are some critical factors in getting tactical athletes to buy into a strength and conditioning program?
Explain cause and effect – everything in your workout better have a reason behind it anyway – so let them know why it matters: “Here’s what doing this will help you improve at, and here’s what improving at that can help you accomplish."
Aloha, This is great advice especially for fairly new graduates looking for a career in this setting. Also be open minded about newer ideas for improving performance (CEU). To add on to what Capt Soika said, yes it's nice to have money and everyone
more» has bills and student loans but it's also nice to have someone who is passionate about what they do. Money will come and don't expect to make a fortune right out of school.«less