In April, during Ohio’s North-South Game at Ohio Stadium, I had the good fortune to be standing on the sidelines with members of the Ohio Army National Guard. As we were talking, they shared with me how they did a number of “Boot Camps” with high school football teams in Southern Ohio. I let them know that I would love to do something like that with my team. So we did…
In April, during Ohio’s North / South All-Star Football Game at Ohio Stadium, I had the good fortune to be standing on the sidelines with members of the Ohio Army National Guard. As we were talking, they shared with me how they did a number of “Boot Camps” with high school football teams in Southern Ohio. I let them know that I would love to do something like that with my team. Fortunately, a member of their unit was transferred to recruit our area about a month later. Contact was made with me and a date was set for “Mohawk Boot Camp”
On July 20th, 2011, members of I company, Ohio Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, brought “Boot Camp” to the Mohawk High School/ Junior High School football program. A team of five non-commissioned officers put the nearly one hundred football players through a two hour and forty minute program designed to take a large group of individuals and forge them into a team.
The program begins with “SHARK ATTACK!. The team begins in the stadium stands. They are given specific instructions on the expectations of the day, how to move, and how to act. The sergeant in charge then tells the group to leave the stands and line up on the goal line. While that seems like a simple task, it took the group fifteen minutes to successfully line up in an organized fashion. When they first left the stands, it was a free for all, kids knocking over kids, worried only about getting themselves from point A to point B. Each unsuccessful attempt at group movement was met with push ups and sit ups. After a few such attempts, the seniors finally took the initiative to leave in lines and in an orderly fashion.
Once on the goal line, the players were requested to count off in “fours”. It is amazing how long it can take to get one hundred kids to count off in “fours” when under stress. Unsuccessful attempts at counting were met with more calisthenics.
Thirty Five minutes into the program, the group was finally lined up and ready to
“Warm Up”. With a sergeant leading the formation, the boys did twenty to twenty-five repetitions, with emphasis on precision, of the following exercises: Bend and reach, Rear lunges, Rower, Bodyweight squats, Windmills, Forward lunges, Prone rows, Bent leg body twists and Push ups.
Now warmed up, the cadre divided the team into high school and Junior high school teams and put them into squads. They then did a mile run, in formation. Difficulty was added by the young men having to echo back “Jody Calls” or chants, to the instructors as they concentrated on staying in formation.
After a water break, the team rotated through four discussion stations. These stations served as both recovery time for the athletes and instruction time for the NCO’s. Station One dealt with Drug and Substance Abuse Prevention. Station Two concerned itself with the “Army Values” (Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage). Station Three was dedicated to the “Warrior Ethos” (I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never leave a fallen comrade, and I will never quit). Station Four espoused the benefits of involvement in the National Guard (financial aid for schooling, career training, pay, and service to the community and nation).
At this point, the junior high players went to work on two activities of their own. First, the National Guardsmen brought a portable, twenty-five foot high rock climbing wall. The wall was used to help the boys face and conquer their fears as well as work together toward a goal. Each set had four climbers and four spotters working on the wall. The climbers had to reach top together and ring bells together. Spotters had to give encouragement and location information to keep team mates on line. Eighth grade lineman, Tyler Pummell called the rock wall, “Absolutely the best part of the day. I was scared to try climbing, but the sergeant worked with me and got me up the wall and over my fear.” Second, the Guardsmen had brought large pedal carts, similar to indy cars. The boys had to work as a team and stay in formation while “driving” around a quarter mile track.
The high school team now got into the “meat” of the program. Each activity now dealt with conditioning, communication and team work:
*The “Z” drill requires the players to sprint a specific pattern continually for ten minutes. At the middle crossing point , they had to communicate their location to a backpedaling team mate by yelling “Ball”..at each corner a sergeant would ask them “ Who are we?” and the player would yell “MOHAWK!”. At the completion of the drill, the lead sergeant asked “What do we do?” and the team yelled together, “WIN!” This would be repeated in every action the rest of the morning. Everything was scripted to emphasize team and team effort.
After a water break, a sergeant talked to the team about their role in the community. How each of them represented not only themselves, but their families, town, school and team. The message was ingrained that they were the future and that it was the duty of the cadre, coaching staff and their families to help them be the best “Men” they could be.
*The “Lineman” drill places a great deal of stress on the lower body. The players work down a one hundred yard field. The drill spans eight minutes of constant movement. The team’s goal is to have every player finish. The drill proceeds as follows: sprint twenty-five yards, hop twenty-five yards, backpedal twenty-five yards, high knees for twenty-five yards and repeat on return trip down the field. This was a great conditioner, but what stood out during the drill was the “Stronger” players and upper-classmen grouped up around the players who were struggling and encouraged them to keep working. All the while answering, “Who are we?” with a loud “MOHAWK!”, “What do we do?”, “WIN!”
As the team recovered from “The Lineman”, a sergeant delivered a presentation on the benefits of Health and Wellness. How a healthy lifestyle would help them in school, at work, and in long term benefits.
After a ten minute recovery/ discussion, the team was up and running the “Woody Hayes” drill.
*The “Woody Hayes” drill, or “Four Corners” drill has four stations, twenty five yards apart, that consist of four rotations of 60 seconds of each exercise. Players are expected to sprint as a group, with enthusiasm, to the next station in the circuit. The four stations were push ups, mountain climbers, flutter kicks and crunches. At the completion of each exercise station, the boys would answer the question, “Who are we?”, “MOHAWK!”, “What do we do?”, “WIN!” before moving to next station.
After a five minute water break, the team lined up for the last drill of the day. The “Giant Killer Relay”.
*The “Giant Killer Relay” is a basketball “line drill” spread out over a football field. The junior high team was included in this as it was a ten minute race with teams one, two, three and four competing for most total yardage during the allotted time. Players would run to the twenty-five yardline and back, fifty yardline and back, far twenty-five yardline and back, and to the goal line and back and then slap hands in exchange to send next runner. It was amazing at the end of two and a half hours of constant effort in ninety degree heat how much effort the kids could still put forth.
At the end, the cadre brought everyone up, praised them for their efforts and development as a team, and gave out awards to those players who went “Above and Beyond” in individual effort and in leading others. To close the event, the sergeants had made “Dog Tags” that said “Mohawk Football” on them and presented them to every player.
We really felt as a staff that this was one of the best team building activities we had ever done. The men of I company did a great job of conveying the importance of values, accountability and effort. The transformation from one hundred nervous individuals, worried about getting themselves through the morning, to one TEAM, thinking of the group, not of themselves, was remarkable. Senior, team captain, Jon Morter said, “ This was the hardest day of conditioning ever, but we are a much closer team now.” It is an activity that we intend to include as a Summer tradition, and encourage other teams to try.
The Mohawk Football Team would like to thank the following gentlemen of the Ohio Army National Guard for their efforts to make us a better team:
Sergeant First Class Brian Clum
Staff Sergeant Class Dan Barger
Sergeant First Class Dave Ibarra
Staff Sergeant Ray Helms
Sergeant Joe Lewis
Private Chad Shellhouse
Private James Koehler