June 23, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
The South Carolina football team added a different twist to its morning workout with a trip to Fort Jackson U.S. Army Training Center on Wednesday as part of the Gamecocks’ “Beyond Football” program. Beyond Football involves a series of events, lectures and presentations for the student-athletes to learn life lessons that transcend the game and can be applied to life after sports.
It was still dark when the team arrived at Williams-Brice Stadium a little before 5 a.m., but the South Carolina student-athletes were in good spirits and there was a sense of excitement. Most college students wouldn’t dream of being up this early, even if it meant being first in line at the nearest coffee shop.
“They’re used to it,” Head Coach Will Muschamp said of his team being so lively at this early hour. “This is when we work out. There is nobody better than our military when it comes to team building and leadership. I really appreciate the opportunity Major General (John) Johnson and Fort Jackson have offered us to come out and take advantage of those qualities they have.”
They loaded the buses and drove in the rain. Many of the Gamecocks made this same trip last year. Returning players told some of the new guys about last year’s experience. Some may have been expecting the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket, but that’s not how this day would go. This was about team building.
“The main thing here is we want to give them a teamwork and a leadership experience,” said Lieutenant Colonel Damien Mason. “The mentors talk to all of the players about loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity, and personal courage. This training will show them that they can’t succeed by themselves, and that they need to come together as a team and think through things as a team.”
As the buses rolled through Fort Jackson, several groups of soldiers were already well into their morning physical training.
“Be sure to tuck your shirt in,” a voice of a returning player said a few rows back.
As the Gamecocks were separated into four teams, Maj. Gen. Johnson greeted the student-athletes and encouraged them to work as a team on every drill.
“It’s always about building a team,” Johnson said. “There’s power in teamwork, and we want to energize that warrior spirit. The warrior spirit is all about winning.”
“The guys have been working really hard this summer,” Muschamp said. “This is a little bit of a change up as far as the workout is concerned. I want our guys to appreciate the military and all they do for us. I think this is something our guys enjoy. The team building process and the leadership development is critical.”
It was a pretty good day. You really saw some leaders come out.
In the first hour, the drill sergeants took the teams through a variety of obstacle courses, constantly encouraging the team leaders to help the others get through the drill.
“No man left behind,” was repeated over and over.
When they were finished, the team was wet, sweaty and covered in sand, but still in good spirits.
“It was a great team building experience,” said senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams. “We had a lot of guys step up into leadership roles that weren’t really leaders before. I learned that I had to take a back seat to guys sometimes.”
The Gamecocks were initially unaware that every drill was timed, and the top two teams took buses to the next phase, while the bottom teams would be hustling out on foot to catch-up.
Over the next couple of hours, the teams were put through a series of physical challenges that required a lot of thought, ingenuity, and leadership for each group to succeed. At the end of the morning, instead of seeing student-athletes who were taxed from a morning workout, there were smiles and handshakes.
“Everything takes teamwork,” said fifth year senior Alan Knott. “With some of those drills where we’re placing boards to get across an obstacle, it takes some brains and leadership to do it right. I learned some better ways to lead. In the past, I might have just yelled at some guys on the field. Out here, you have to make sure everyone is on the same page. Instead of yelling at each other when someone messes things up, you have to work together and be encouraging.”
“I thought this was really good for team bonding and team chemistry,” said fifth year senior lineman Cory Helms. “For a lot of the obstacles, we had to come up with a plan as a team, listen to leaders and to other people’s opinions and work together to get stuff done. It was a pretty good day. You really saw some leaders come out.”
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