How the Xtreme Athlete Prepares for Military

Navy Chief Petty Officer Carey A. Peekstok attempts to perform a skateboarding maneuver called a kickflip as professional skateboarder and X Games athlete Alexis Sablone watches (Navy photo by Nicholas Burgains).

A new type of athleticism is growing in popularity in the last 20 years with more “extreme sports” becoming competitions. Sports like BMX, motocross, skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding, and others have turn fun hobbies into full time sports and athletic activities for many young athletes. Many of these athletes are finding their way into the military as well as they peak in the various levels of competition. Here are some of the strengths and weaknesses brought to the table with the “Xtreme Athlete.”

Extreme Athlete’s Strengths for the Military Recruit (Intangibles)

Mental Toughness – There is a comfort level unlike many other types of athletes that the extreme games athletes have. Facing a steep ski slope, a halfpipe, high jumps, and other death defying tricks creates a person comfortable with high-risk activities. Being able to think and physically perform under this “life or death” stress is a skillset not many other athletes have.

Competitor / Teammate – There is no “I” in Team, but for the extreme athletes very often these competitions are individual events even though as you advance you may be competing on a team representing the United States in an Olympic type competition atmosphere. Though the competitor side in the extreme athlete is high or higher than any athlete, the combining forces and becoming a team could prove difficult at first.  But with some respected team mates, this type of athlete will create a unique bond and likely often be a source of fun party tricks for the crowd.

Injuries – A history of injuries is very likely for the athlete who has done this type of sports in their past. Getting accepted into the military with multiple surgeries, broken bones, and other injuries could make the MEPS and medical waiver process more difficult.  But, if you have all the medical records, physical therapist and doctor / surgical notes, you should be ok as long as there is nothing that prevents you from full range of motion or severe back pain for example. Being able to crush the PFT, is one way to show the recruiters / medical that you are fully capable of joining the military. However, knowing how to play with pain is a skill many athletes bring with them to the military and make for good recruits in combat units and special operations programs.

Extreme Athlete’s Strengths for the Military Recruit (Tangibles)

Big Core Strength and Cardio Endurance – Depending upon the activity these athletes specialize in (some do more that one skill), the amount of core strength, balance, agility, dexterity, and leg stamina will serve the extreme athlete well as they advance through the training pipeline.

Obstacle Courses – Extreme athletes do exceptionally well with obstacle courses.  Usually the daredevil in them will cruise through many obstacles that cause fear in others. Grip muscles for the rope climbs are easy and they tend to have lower bodyweight and have very long-lasting grip strength. Look for these athletes to have some of the faster obstacle course times in the class.

Extreme Athlete Weaknesses for the Military Recruit

Specifics – Depending upon the branch of service, as long as the typical Extreme athlete does not need to swim, he/she will do quite well in the military. However, no matter what service, the extreme athlete will need to do calisthenics.  Often the advanced level athletes will have a background in bodyweight exercises however, these can be a temporary weakness if high rep calisthenics are not part of a regular training cycle.

Injury Prevention / Running Foundation Building – The solid foundation of muscle stamina, core strength, endurance and grip strength enable the extreme athlete to have a strong foundation with joint strength of the lower and upper body. However, a typical weakness can be running longer distances or rucking longer distances at an accelerated pace. Hopefully, after extreme sports injuries, the rehab was sufficient and being susceptible to typical traumatic injuries like sprains, falls, bumps and bruises will be part of the past.

Discipline and Authority – Extreme Athletes are from a culture (to a degree) of defying authority. Being yelled at during boot camp and transitioning into a team player with your fellow recruits maybe a challenge at first. But with some maturity and some patience the transition into the military can be just as “smooth” as it is for everyone else.

Conclusion

Thank you for considering service in our country’s military. Regardless of your athletic background, becoming a tactical athlete requires taking your current strengths and molding them to the service requirements and focusing on current weaknesses that could be detrimental to the new recruit or spec ops student. If you are a current athlete, keep it up, but in the off season, get specific to the branch of service that you are considering. You may need to add in some rucking, swimming, more speed and agility running, and perhaps lifting so the load bearing events of rucking are not an uncommon event.

Previous Athletes Discussed:

Cross Country Endurance Running Athlete

Swimming Athlete

Powerlifting Football Athlete

CrossFit Athlete

The Wrestler Athlete

The Rower Athlete

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