There are a lot of different ways to prepare for a season and coaches go to extremes to make sure their players are ready. Coaches will use all kinds of tactics to form strong team bonds and to test the fortitude of their players.
One of the most extreme ways of getting that done is submitting a team to military drills and that is exactly what Colorado head coach Tad Boyle did for his players. The Buffs head coach enrolled his team in The Program/Judgment Day, a roughly eight-hour experience spread over two days and usually run by former military personnel.
With the youth that Colorado will have this season and the coaching staff not knowing exactly what type of adversity they will face this year, they thought that it could benefit the team.
Check out what the Buffs had to go through courtesy of the Colorado video department:
Boyle first heard of the program through a former colleague and close friend, current Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon, after he put the Terps through ‘The Program’. Turgeon said that it was one the best things he’s ever done as a coach in terms of bringing outside influences in on his program and he didn’t have to say anymore to get Boyle on board.
Two former military personnel came in to put the Buffs through the tests, Coleman Ruiz, a 12-year Navy SEAL officer and former college wrestler and team captain at the US Naval Academy, and Sol Sollerer, a 22-year British Army commando veteran who had just joined The Program and was working his seventh event.
The exterior conditions, driving rain and temperatures in the low-40s to start, rain turning to snow and temps in the low-30s to finish, were rough for the team but perfect for SEAL’s purposes. “Anyone can lead when it’s 70 degrees and sunny,” said Sollerer. “It was uncomfortable for them; you could tell right away it was uncomfortable.”
What commenced after they were led outside went something like this:
Ruiz wanted a “perfect 16 minutes” of pushups, leg kicks in the sodden grass, jumping jacks, etc. Perfect meant perfect: 16 players lined up in four arrow-straight rows and squared away front, back and to each side. Squiggly rows weren’t perfect. Start it all over. Do it right or do it all night.
Before they left the CEC, Ruiz told the Buffs he wanted three things: “Stay focused on the mission, stay alert, stay responsive.” And, he added this isn’t about self: “Make every decision based on the guy to your left and right.” Several of the players came outfitted with hats and gloves, but Ruiz told them all would wear hats and gloves – or no one would. So no one did.
Counting stops, starts and re-dos, finishing Ruiz’s first perfect 16 minutes required just over an hour. Then came a second perfect 16 minutes, followed by a perfect overtime, consisting of two-man relays with players lugging logs, sandbags and each other. The Buffs didn’t return to the CEC until nearly 8:45 p.m., then had wakeup calls for 4:30 on Thursday morning.
One of the main goals that ‘The Program’ was trying to achieve was to make the players feel uncomfortable, get used to feeling miserable, finding their physical edge and jumping off. Many of Colorado’s heralded freshmen class were from California so when it started snowing during the drills that was the first time they had even seen snow. Talking about not being in a comfort zone.
After Wednesday their next drills were inside on Thursday morning, mostly involving pool exercises. Those drills involved treading water while wearing a sweatshirt, waiting until that sweatshirt is soaked then taking it off and passing it along to a teammate to put on while doing the same yourself and doing all of that with a military personnel poolside with a stopwatch. On top of that one exercise they did other exercises poolside for the good part of three hours.
There’s no telling how effective ‘The Program’ will be for Boyle’s team until conference play begins and the Buffs try to defend their conference title. However, it should pay immediate dividends as nothing they will face during the early part of the season will quite test them as much as those two days.
H/T to B.G. Brooks at CUBuffs.com