Veterans apply experience, discipline to coaching here - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Veterans apply experience, discipline to coaching here

November 11th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Veterans apply experience, discipline to coaching here
Sports and Recreation

By Zach Alvira
Sports Editor

Veteran’s Day has a different meaning for everyone who has served in the military.

Some use it to reflect on those who enlisted before them, who gave them the opportunity to choose their path to fight for the country. Some honor those who they fought or trained alongside. Others begin to think about those who will serve after them.

It’s a special holiday honoring the men and women in uniform. And it becomes more special when veterans are able to share it with high school-aged kids they now coach.

“I really think about the history,” said Justin Artis, a trainer with the Arizona National Guard and football coach at Hamilton High School. “When I first got in, we were at the tail end of Iraq. The stories I heard, they were horrific.

“When I think about Veteran’s Day, I think about the sacrifices of the people that came before me, all the people I’ve trained. I think more about them.”

Artis has worked for the Arizona National Guard for 14 years now.

The former standout All-State defensive end played for Hamilton from 2004-08 before going on to continue his career at Adams State University as a linebacker. He transferred back to the Valley and attended Arizona State, but quickly found out he couldn’t afford the tuition. He volunteered with the Army as a military police officer and then enlisted in the National Guard with the intent of going on to continue playing football. However, that never happened.

He began coaching shortly after he began working for the Guard. He eventually found his way back to Hamilton where he now serves as the head junior varsity coach and offensive quality control coach at the varsity level under head coach Mike Zdebski.

He cherishes the opportunity to coach at his alma mater, even with a difficult schedule at times based on trainings with the National Guard. But he approaches coaching with the same mindset as his full-time job, with discipline and building character at the forefront, even while his approach is different.

“One of the first things I really noticed, organizationally, was being able to be in charge of a large amount of young soldiers. It’s the same as being in charge of young men,” Artis said. “It’s little things like putting a bus schedule together and who is going to sit with who. Those things are very similar.

“Discipline, it’s a little different. When you volunteer for the military, you know what you’re going to get. Football, that’s a piece of it but there’s a difference in how you treat a military soldier and a high school football player.”

Myron Blueford shares the same values with his players at Arizona College Prep High School less than 4 miles away from Hamilton.

Blueford enlisted in the Army in 2002 where he did one term as an Army reserve. After basic training in Virginia, he came back to Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona to finish his term. His family has a history of military service, and Blueford saw it initially as an opportunity to forego school.

He quickly realized the level of discipline it takes to succeed in the military. Simply put, it isn’t for the weak-minded.

“They really do test you,” Blueford said. “When I got out and got into coaching, I used that. If you have a strong mind and a strong background, you’re going to be able to be successful. I use a lot of that in how I coach and how I approach things.”

Along with coaching, Blueford has become the go-to person on campus for kids with questions about what they can expect if they were to enlist. He’s had students outside of his football program come to him at times. He’s also had current players question whether it’s a route they should consider for a specific career path.

While he enforces that it is their own decision, he explains the pros and cons of what it could do for them as individuals. His goal is to leave them with enough information they can then present to their parents to make a decision that is best for them.

“I’m a huge advocate for a lot of different reasons,” Blueford said. “I’m very patriotic but I think what you get out of it, there’s no other environment you’re going to get that.”

ACP in the past has honored veterans by wearing special American Flag-themed jerseys. This year, they plan to put special decals on their helmets to go along with the American Flag.

They also have a presentation or conversation about his experience or the experience of another veteran he brings in to speak with the team. He wants to make sure his players understand the significance behind the holiday and what it means.

“I have a lot of friends that are active and a lot that aren’t here anymore,” Blueford said. “Just like football, you’re in the trenches with these people. The thought that they went out and sacrificed for me to be able to do this and have what I have, I don’t take it for granted.

“I make sure anyone I encounter or anyone I have an influence over, they understand that, too.”

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