ILLESHIEM, Germany – 1st Lt. Christian King of Alpha Company, 615th Aviation Support Battalion uses lessons and experiences gained from his years as a semi-pro and All-Army soccer player to influence his leadership style.
“I do consider myself somewhat as a coach at heart,” said the Barbados-born and Long Beach-raised King. “I use a lot of encouragement but also constantly look for ways for my team to grow.”
Teamwork, hard work, commitment, dedication, grit- critical for a successful sports team and just as important for a strong Army team.
Always the exceptional athlete, King excelled as a collegiate soccer player and eventually elevated himself to semi-pro teams in the U.S. and overseas.
Although he said that lifestyle didn’t necessarily offer him a life of affluence, it did allow him to fulfill his dream of playing soccer professionally.
“When you play for those high-level, explosive soccer teams, it isn’t like you are on a three-year contract,” explained King. “You play one season; if they don’t like you, they find someone else. I did that for four or five years and then came back to the U.S.”
After suffering a debilitating injury during a team trial after returning to the states, King started to realize that maybe his time as a semi-pro athlete was waning.
“When I broke my foot, the reality of where I was in the lifecycle of a professional athlete became clear,” lamented King. “But I left that world with so much gratification. I’m so thankful that I had those experiences.”
King went back to California and decided to stay plugged into the sports life by becoming a coach. In this new role, he was able to give back to an activity that had given him so much over his life and remain connected to soccer in a gratifying way.
However, the financial strain of starting a family in California was a challenge.
“I had a son at this point and working three different jobs along with being a coach. It was tough to make it all work,” King reflected. “It was my mom who suggested that I join the Army.”
His recruiters told him about programs in the military, such as the Army World Class Athlete Program, where he could have the opportunity to play soccer while serving. Sworn in and bags packed, he shipped off to the Army.
“When I got to Fort Bragg, I looked up the base soccer team and messaged them with my interest to join the team,” remembered King. “I went for the tryouts and started playing as soon as I could.”
During the annual Defender’s Cup National Military Soccer Tournament, King would meet the head coach for the All-Army Team. During their discussion, the coach told him all about the All-Army program and what he would need to join.
“When it came time to apply to the All-Army Team, my name had already been floating around. I had played for the assistant coach and had established myself as a reliable, solid player,” King recalled. “It helps to have a good reputation as a player going into the trial process.”
The All-Army Sports Program is a fantastic way for world-class athletes such as King to continue their passion for athletics while serving their country. The traveling and competing aspects of the program allowed King to experience the military in a new light.
The highlight for King was in 2019 when he was selected to represent the U.S. Armed Forces Soccer for the Military Olympics held in China.
With his years as a traveling athlete behind him, he now spends his days coaching his platoon to victory. He acknowledges he doesn't have all the answers. But, he knows what hard work and teamwork look like and always tries to utilize each person’s strengths.
“Having a positive attitude and the mindset to determine whether you are ahead or behind the curve is important,” he explained. “Each person on our Army team has a unique talent that is critical to our mission success.”
“I need to be able to step out from the formation and explain things and to get peers and those I work with to do better and WANT to do better,” he said. “Coaching and playing soccer has helped me, and I am forever grateful for everything that has happened in my life.”