Playing sports at a U.S. service academy is a completely different ballgame from playing at a traditional school. Curious whether it might be right for you? To learn more about the recruiting process at a military school, I caught up with Tanner Omlid.
Omlid will attend the United States Military Academy at West Point this fall and play basketball for the Army Black Knights. At Central High School in Independence, Ore., Omlid was a two-time state champion, two-time Conference Player of the Year, two-time First Team All-State player and Oregon 4A Player of the Year his senior year. He was also a twice honored as the Second Team All-Conference quarterback in football.
Q: When was the first time you thought about attending the United States Military Academy?
Tanner Omlid: Back in August of this past year . [The Army] coach called me up to talk to me about going to school there, and then came out for an in-home visit. It was after that in-home visit when I really wanted to go visit the campus and started considering Army.
Q: What clinched it for you?
TO: The campus visit in October was the clincher. Before that, I really didn't think I was going to go there. I was looking at Western Oregon and some other schools. Once I stepped on [the West Point] campus, I saw the best facilities I've ever seen. The coaches were great, and the culture there is completely unique.
Q: When were you first contacted by the coaches at West Point?
TO: Last summer was the first summer I played AAU ball. Usually I go up to Alaska with my dad in the summers and do commercial salmon fishing. But this past summer, we decided to stay here, and I played basketball all summer. It was at one of the tournaments where the Army coaches saw me play.
Q: What was the process like to get accepted into West Point?
TO: I had to go through some medical screening—getting my eyes checked and stuff like that. Then I had to pass a physical fitness test. I struggled with the Push-Ups the first time—6'4" basketball players don't do a lot of Push-Ups usually, so I had to work on that for a little bit, but then it wasn't a problem. Then there was a bunch of paperwork that I had to do. Police record check, getting your birth certificate notarized, sending over your social security card, stuff like that.
Q: What were the academic requirements like?
TO: They have high standards. My grades have been really good since seventh grade, when my parents told me I wouldn't be able to play basketball without straight A's. I really needed that, because I had let myself be okay with Bs, but my parents knew I could do better. Now, I'll be graduating with a 3.9 GPA, and it's because my parents wouldn't let me settle for anything less than straight As. I wouldn't be going to West Point without my 3.9 GPA. [Learn how to fight procrastination and get better grades.]
Q: What will happen once you get on campus?
TO: I know it's going to suck! It's definitely going to be tough, but I'm going to embrace it. We have a three-week basic training when we get there. Then, my first year I will be in the Prep School, which is kind of like a red-shirt year, in that it doesn't count as one of your years, but you still practice and play games.
Q: What are you most looking forward to about going to West Point?
TO: I hear the camaraderie is amazing there, and you make the best friends you could ever have for the rest of your life. So I'm really looking forward to that. I like challenges. I love proving people wrong when they say I can't do something.
Q: Do you have any doubters about whether you'll make it as an Army Officer?
TO: There are always doubters! I've had them my entire life. I like to prove them wrong.
Q: What was it like winning two state championships in three years?
TO: Those were some of the best moments of my entire life. It was really hard work, but both times we had a really good team and an amazing coach. I am really thankful to be able to be a part of those teams. Thankful for my coaches, family and friends.
Q: How do you feel about becoming an Army Officer after college?
TO: I'm excited for it. There are so many career paths that you can choose from. The Army has all the jobs that any big corporation would have. Jobs that are far-ranging, from cooks to administration to pilots, and then there are the combat jobs as well. But with all the different career fields they've got, you've got to be a leader, because you'll be in a management position and responsible for the soldiers who work under you. There's a long, proud tradition at Army that I'm really looking forward to being a part of. They call it the Long Gray Line. My parents always remind me that there's life after basketball, so knowing I've already got a career lined up feels really good.
Think a U.S. service academy might be right for you? Check out our three tips for getting into a service academy.
Chris DuBois, CSCS, is currently the head performance trainer for Courthouse Performance Training in Salem, Ore. For several years, he has worked as a strength and conditioning coach in collegiate and private settings. He spent nine years in the United States Marine Corps, where he successfully trained recruits for boot camp and officer candidates for OCS. DuBois was one of the strength coaches who helped develop and implement the strength and conditioning program currently used by Marine Corps Special Operations (MARSOC). He has a bachelor's degree in exercise science.