Army veteran reaches new heights with Soldiers to Sidelines charity: ‘Puts our veterans at the forefront’


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Maurice Allen has worn many different hats in life. He is a U.S. Army veteran, a husband, a father and a football coach. 

He is also a “soldier coach.” 

Allen, a retired Army communications specialist, is just one of the more than 1,800 “soldier coaches” certified through the veteran charity Soldiers to Sidelines that was able to find a renewed purpose after his military service. 

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Maurice Allen enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2012 and served for four years, which included his deployment to Afghanistan in 2014-15. (Maurice Allen)

“I played high school football. I kind of always knew I wanted to be a coach. I was going to go to play college football out of high school and instead went active duty Army and was stationed at Fort Hood,” Allen told Fox News Digital in an interview. 

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Allen put his dream of coaching on hold to serve his country and, eventually, to pursue his education. He enlisted in 2012 and served for four years, which included his deployment to Afghanistan in 2014-15. 

His story is like many others. However, after completing his service, Allen knew he wanted to return to coaching. With that in mind, he earned his Bachelor’s degree and a Masters of Education in Sports Administration at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and later an Education Specialist degree from Valdosta State University. 

During that time, however, Allen was looking for something that was just for veterans. That was when he came across Soldiers to Sidelines. 

He reached out to Harrison Bernstein, the president and founder of Soldiers to Sidelines, a veteran service charity organization whose mission is to provide a renewed sense of purpose to members of the military community through coaching while also serving the youth community. 

They kept in contact and, eventually, Allen was able to attend one of the Soldiers to Sidelines seminars. 

“It’s just an amazing organization that really puts our veterans at the forefront. And it’s something that I strongly believe in, and it’s just been an amazing opportunity.”

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The program is free and is available to veterans, service members, military spouses and gold-star families. (Soldiers to Sidelines)

SOLDIERS TO SIDELINES FOUNDER ON A MISSION TO HELP VETERANS AND GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

Bernstein told Fox News Digital that the idea for a coaching program designed for service members came about in 2010 after his time with the Washington Commanders, where he served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for three years. 

“I was coaching high school football and a colleague of mine was adamant about helping out service members in the area get involved in coaching football, because the news was just riddled with people coming back from the Middle East looking for purpose, looking for a way to reconnect and to find some renewed happiness and purpose,” Bernstein explained. 

“And so it was actually a colleague who suggested that we bring some of the local veterans out to high school football practice and make them part of the team and teach them how to coach football.” 

Bernstein admitted that he was not initially interested in the idea. He was working on perfecting his own coaching technique with the hopes of returning to the NFL.  But after much persistence, Bernstein obliged and held a seminar that just six people attended. To his surprise, Bernstein’s plans for his future had shifted in that moment and Soldiers to Sidelines was born. 

More than 1,800 soldier coaches have now been certified through the program across eight different sports. Veterans make up 38% of certified coaches, while retired and active duty make up another 25% and 27%. 

The program is free and available to veterans, service members, military spouses, and gold-star families. After completing the certification process, Soldiers to Sidelines offers continued learning with online coursework, webinars, workshops and more. 

Those who have completed the certification process have gone on to coach at all levels. For Bernstein, though, the most impact can be seen in those who coach at the youth level. 

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Maurice Allen is the head football coach at South Paulding High School in Georgia. (Maurice Allen)

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Allen currently serves as the head football coach at South Paulding High School in Georgia. He previously coached at different 5A-8A schools across Texas, Florida and Georgia. However, in the spring, Soldiers to Sidelines helped to introduce him to a new opportunity. 

Allen became the first soldier coach to land an internship with an NFL team, the New York Jets. He worked with the team during mandatory minicamp and OTAs. 

“It was just really, really intriguing just to see how they operate and how they practice, the coaching points and how intricate it is coming from high school up to the NFL,” Allen said. “But just to see the level of detail preparation and the ins and outs of the program and how they communicate with each other and the coaching staff communicate. And it was by far one of the best experiences that I’ve been a part of and made some really good connections and got to learn.” 

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Maurice Allen was the first “soldier coach” to get an internship with an NFL team this past spring. (Maurice Allen)

Allen said the experience opened his eyes to the possibility of coaching at the highest level. For now, he is taking all that he learned and repurposing that knowledge within his own community. He is also looking to continue spreading the mission of Soldiers to Sidelines. 

“There’s a team outside of the military that you can join and be a part of, and that’s Soldiers to Sidelines,” Allen said of those service members transitioning out of the military. 

“It gives you a purpose, and you can touch so many lives, whether it be youth, middle school, high school, college or the NFL. There’s so many lives and so many people that you can come in contact with and impact. So my message for any veteran out there that is interested or looking to transition, or even if you’re still active duty and you’re coaching a youth or middle school team, Soldiers to Sidelines is for you.” 

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