TAMPA, Fla. — Jay Powers has built a wrestling program at Plant High School around three principles: character, teamwork and intensity.
“I thought about, in terms of culture, what’s important for wrestling, but what’s important for developing the future of our country,” Powers said.
What You Need To Know
- Plant High’s new wrestling coach, Jay Powers, served as a Green Beret in the U.S. Army
- Powers is also a former West Point wrestler who is combining lessons learned both to build strong wrestlers and even better young men and women
- Powers helps organizations improve results by building high-performance teams where people thrive
He’s known as Coach Powers at Plant High School, but until recently, he was Army Special Forces Col. Jay Powers.
He retired last March after a 26-year career that began at West Point and included multiple combat deployments.
“Most of my time with special forces group, 10 deployments to the Middle East, there were good times and a lot of hard times," Powers said. "But it’s a lot like wrestling, where the hard times, you’re sacrificing for a purpose and you just get a lot of satisfaction out of that."
He served as a Green Beret, leading thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Powers said one of the biggest lessons he learned is the importance of investing in people and empowering them. It's a lesson he’s now using as head coach.
Plant High wrestler Koda Sciuto says the whole team is inspired by Powers.
“He served our country, he’s got discipline and it’s radiant," Sciuto said. "When you’re in the room with him, you feel willing to work, you feel ready to get on the mat (and) give your hardest."
Powers said his practices require physical and mental toughness, something that bonds this group together.
“Everybody builds each other up, everybody’s working together,” Sciuto said.
Powers said his military experience also taught him a lot about building a team.
“Just like in wrestling, you’re surrounding yourself with other people that are willing to work hard for a reason," he said. "The military is like the ultimate team."
His team now includes a special assistant coach, one who already has some history with Powers.
“I served in military special operations with Jay Powers, and when the team didn’t have a coach earlier in the year, he stepped up and said I’m going to put my hat in the ring here to be the head coach,” Eric Springer said.
The two are now reunited with a new mission, changing young people’s lives.
“I want them to know that they know they can do anything, that they are capable of so much more than sometimes they let themselves believe,” Springer said. “They can reach deep and achieve any objective that they put their mind to, doesn’t matter how hard it is, they will be able to get there because they’ve done something very tough already.”
Both say that wrestling is an intense sport.
“When you lose, you really feel it, it really hurts, and that’s what makes it such great teacher of life lessons,” Powers said.
But he said he keeps his program positive and all-inclusive.
Joe Chiellini is a parent of a special needs student who joined the wrestling team after Powers encouraged him to come out.
“He’s got some special needs, and the confidence that he’s instilled in my son is unbelievable," Chiellini said. "And I think it comes from Coach Powers and the coaching staff and the team that he’s assembled. You wouldn’t believe if you went to a match the way they just bring the camaraderie and teamwork to each other, whether they’re winning or losing.”
Powers said he wants these life experiences and lessons to serve these students beyond their time on the mat.
“If you have integrity and good character, and are willing to work hard and work well with others, you can really succeed at whatever you want to do,” he said.