Juggling academics, sports and life is hard enough. Now imagine also being in the military at the same time.
Not many are able to endure this intense level of dedication, mental and physical fortitude, belief and talent to endure. But two University of Wisconsin-Green Bay students possess these qualities and embrace the challenge every day as student-athletes who are also in the military.
Sophomore Taylor Reichow is a goalkeeper for the Green Bay women’s soccer team. She’s also an Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Cadet and National Guard enlistee. Freshman Salvador Sierra is a member of the men’s cross-country team and the Marine Reserves.
Being in the Army was on Reichow’s radar in high school, and during her first semester at UW-Green Bay, she decided to lead a more purposeful life. Despite being on the women’s soccer team and a full-time student, she said she needed more. “Soccer will only last until college is over,” she said. While she saw the Army as a potential career opportunity after college, she felt it could still benefit her during college. She met with a recruiter and joined the Army on Nov. 19, 2018.
Sierra had a bit of personal experience with what life as a Marine would entail. His brother, a six-year Marine veteran, told him about his experiences and the benefits of joining the Marine Reserves. During his final month at Green Bay Preble High School, Salvador made the commitment and enrolled.
Both say it’s been a challenge.
Reichow completed the 10-week basic training this past summer, leaving her four days of “freedom” before preseason soccer training. “I knew that I could accomplish anything if I could get through basic training,” she said.
In contrast to Reichow’s recent interest in the Army, her passion for soccer began over a decade ago, at the age of five. “I’ve been an athlete my whole life,” she said. At Oshkosh West, she was a defender and forward until her sophomore year, when she switched to goalkeeper. Shortly after, she began to be recruited by multiple schools, including UW-Green Bay. Ultimately, she chose UW-Green Bay, which was also a school she was looking into because of the Information and Computer Science program. Taylor described it as a “dream” to be able to further her educational career while also playing soccer.
Sierra began his cross-country career during his freshman year at Preble. “I never ran in my life, but I stuck through it for a couple practices and saw I was good.” After a few years of hard work, Sierra was able to compete at state. While Sierra chose UW-Green Bay initially because it made it easier for him to go to school, be a Marine and work, it wasn’t until later that he decided to run cross-country for the University.
Reichow and Sierra both identified time management as their biggest challenge. The most chaotic time for Taylor is during the soccer season, as she must balance soccer, the Army, being a student and life. Salvador juggles cross-country, academics, the Marines, work, life and additional online classes for the Marines. As for what keeps him motivated each day, Sierra says, “It’s my ambition that keeps me going to be able and achieve all this.” Reichow added, “The Army will always help with soccer.”
Both student-athletes have learned that training for sports helps with the military, and vice versa. Sierra explained how training in the Marines has helped him gain strength for running, and running cross-country has helped him obtain perfect scores in the three-mile and 880- meter runs during physical tests for the Marines. Similarly, Taylor has found that the core and leg strength training with the Army has helped her as a goalkeeper to stop the shots that come her way. In addition, soccer drills, such as diving and catching 80-mph soccer balls, have helped her to better execute tasks given by the Army.
As for conflicts, both Taylor and Salvador say they have received tremendous support from the Green Bay athletics. “Coach Kline is very flexible and appreciative of my commitments in and outside of sports,” Sierra said.
When asked about what advice she would give to individuals in a similar position as her, Reichow offered, “If your heart is set, it is totally doable. You can be a student-athlete and in the Army at the same time. You just have to make it work. Don’t listen to anyone else…”
When posed the same question, Sierra stated, “I would simply say you can do it. Nothing is impossible. In the end, it’s just a matter of how hungry you are for success.”
While they have the majority of their collegiate career ahead of them, both are already considering a few options after graduation. Once Reichow graduates, she will become a 2nd Lieutenant in the National Guard. She could enlist as active duty, making this her full-time job, or she could pursue a full-time “civilian” job with her degree while still being in the Army. As for Sierra, his plans after graduation are to become a financial planner, but is open to any other opportunities that arise with his degree.
Needless to say, they certainly have bright futures ahead of them.
Story by UW-Green Bay Marketing and University Communication student assistant, Joshua Konecke
Photo by UW-Green Bay student Julia Kostopoulos, via Green Bay Athletics