Brett Sullenger

Summary
Brett completed his Master’s degree in Applied Sport Science through the IU Department of Kinesiology’s partnership program with West Point. He is now teaching and directing courses at West Point in the following areas: Exercise science and application to platoon fitness, weightlifting, and foundations of fitness. He also interned with IU Strength and Conditioning while completing his Master’s degree. Brett is interested in mentoring current IU students.

Tells us how you got into this field:
When an Army officer is a company commander (100-130 Soldiers) they are afforded the opportunity to compete for “broadening” assignments post-command. As an Army leader, I had always been deeply involved with my unit’s physical readiness training and thoroughly enjoyed strength training in my free time. I applied and was selected to attend graduate school with a follow-on assignment to teach in the Department of Physical Education at West Point.

Tell us what you like best about your current position or career path:
I currently teach four classes: PE450 (program design and programming), military movement, Olympic weightlifting and strength development. I also am a sport educator for our Foundations of Fitness, which is a supervised training program for low performing cadets (within the physical pillar). It is extremely exciting to witness the transformation of these cadets as they complete my courses and move on to become better fitness leaders. I enjoy mentoring these young soldiers through their progression into Officers and feel proud representing my alma mater IU through my teachings.

Tell us what is most challenging about your current position, the industry, or the program:
Time is my enemy. I only have a certain amount of time in class or during a training session to accomplish any set goal(s). I have an enormous number of additional duties and tasks from the Army on top of my instructor position-all requiring a large amount of time and energy. If I do not carefully manage my day and fully focus on each task, I will quickly fall behind. It can be challenging to balance staying on top of all the latest exercise science data (reading articles, attending conferences, etc.) and building upon everything I have learned in school, all while juggling my daily tasks.

Share what skills and characteristics are most important to be successful in this field or program:
Being a military physical fitness instructor requires a strong-willed individual who embodies the core Army values. You must be very self-aware and brutally honest with yourself regarding your weaknesses and strengths and be willing to be constantly improving upon those traits. Strong leader and mentorship skills are integral to this field, given that you have such a strong influence and impact on the lives of young adults who may not only be entering into warfare at some point, but who also need to be prepared to enter the civilian workforce at any time. I firmly believe that physical fitness instills tenacity, self-motivation, and self-discipline, translating into everyday life.

Share a short-term goal you are pursuing or working toward:
As the PE450 course director, I want to leave the course that I inherited better than when I found it. PE450 currently has great bones, but I want to continue to update and modernize the curriculum to create better fitness leaders and programming experts. I believe with the hard work of my phenomenal course instructors, we can continue to produce Army platoon leaders who can better assess their units, create programs that effectively achieve their overall goals and lead by example.

Tell us about an experience you had in college that prepared you most for your current career:
I had two major experiences during my time at IU that best prepared me for my current instructor role. The first was my time as a strength and conditioning intern under Coach Will Alli at the Wilkinson Performance Center (north end zone of Memorial Stadium). Working with multiple teams and learning from numerous outstanding coaches showed me the challenges of programming for high level athletes and the hard work it takes to run a physical training program. Working under these high caliber coaches allowed me the opportunity to experience what it is like to work in a world class performance facility. The second experience was being developed and mentored by outstanding SPH faculty, particularly Dr. Moscicki, Dr. Raglin, and Dr. Gruber. They dedicated an unbelievable amount of time and effort to my development. Without their expertise and guidance throughout my time at grad school (both in and out of class), I would not be as prepared as I am now to teach, mentor and develop cadets here at West Point.

Share any other piece of advice you have for a current student pursuing your same path:
Leadership requires emotional, physical, and mental discipline. Many of your days will be grueling in ways you never thought possible, but just know that it is worth it! You legitimately get out of this field what you put into it, so put in some hard work and dedication while at IU. Being able to translate your passion through your work with students or athletes is one of the most fulfilling and humbling experiences you can hope to achieve. Ensure you build meaningful relationships with peers, instructors and mentors that you work with each day. Remember: You will be representing your fellow Hoosiers throughout your career, so make every experience count! Banner Up!