If someone has ever walked from Ledges or Mountainview residence halls for an early-morning class or simply live there, chances are they have heard the hollering and intense outbursts of athletes training across Hogan Road.
This isn’t the normal collegiate sunrise practice, however. The Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse team is training military-style, a standard of the program since late last year. The regimen is not average training, but physically and emotionally is as grueling of a task some of these athletes have ever done.
In November 2012, the Bobcats took part in a two-day training and workout regimen known as “The Program,” which has a mission of providing high school, professional and collegiate teams and corporate organizations with the best leadership and team building development in the country.
“We took on ‘The Program’ as a way to leave on a high note and keep the team motivated over break and to give us a high standard,” senior assistant captain and midfielder Chris Messina said.
“The Program” was founded in 2008 by Eric Kapitulik, who attended the US Naval Academy, where he was a four-year letterwinner for the Division I lacrosse team. Kapitulik is a former infantry officer and special operations officer and his tasks included hostage rescue, ship takevers and high altitude jumps.
The Bobcats kick started the workouts in the meeting room in the athletic center wearing all of the same clothing, notably sweatsuits since it is a rule of the event to wear the same attire. The team endured different training activities, including those outside that evening from 5 to 9 p.m. when they did sprints, push-ups, flutter kicks, bridges, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, fireman carries, log lifts, sandbag carries, etc. The next morning the exercises continued at Cheshire Academy, where the squad went through a pool session at 5 a.m.
Some highlights included the fireman carries, in which sophomore defenseman Greg Pendergast said the Bobcats had to run the length of the outdoor tennis courts multiple times with a teammate slung over their shoulders. He emphasized the difficulty of the fireman carries as it was the final portion of the night session. The most difficult exercise for the team, Pendergast noted, was the pool workouts where some exercises involved the players treading water wearing baggy sweatshirts and having to take them off and trade them with a teammate all in unison.
“It was draining,” Pendergast said. “There were times when we would come close to finishing a cycle of exercises and would be stopped mid-repetition because of a mistake. We then had to start that cycle over and it really pushed us mentally to stay focused to complete every task when we were that much more tired.”
Kapitulik developed the workout routine after he was involved in a helicopter crash that killed seven marines from his platoon, during a routine training mission to prepare for upcoming deployment to the Persian Gulf. Kapitulik tries to always “do one more” as part of a team building exercise.
Pendergast describes the training exercises as grueling and demanding because of both the physical and emotional toll it had.
“It was challenging as we had to really push our physical limits in order to complete every task and do so in a timely manner,” he said.
The most important aspect of the offseason workout is that it differs from the team’s regular workout routine.
“With regular weight training and conditioning, there is more of a focus on individual performance to achieve the team goals,” Pendergast said. “With these exercises and training, no one can take a step toward getting themselves better unless the whole team is with them. The focus is on team and that we are so much stronger when everyone is working together than when we are disjointed.”
Last season, the Bobcats welcomed 23 freshmen in what was a rebuilding year, as they went 3-11 and lost in the Northeast Conference semifinals. After that, the team wanted to have more leadership.
“A lot of the guys developed more of a sense of accountability, something that is assumed, but never really talked about,” senior midfield captain Basil Kostaras said. “It taught us that everyone has a role, no matter what that role may be and in order for us to be successful everyone needs to know their role and complete it to the best of their abilities. That type of mentality was something that we unfortunately didn’t have last year.”
Messina thought “The Program” worked in ways that regular practice might have not.
“I believe we needed structure and discipline as a team,” Messina said. “The workouts were going to unite us in ways we might not have been able to do on our own. This helped the leaders on the team rise to the occasion and helped the team become more disciplined as a whole. On the field leadership and discipline is vital to your success.”
For Quinnipiac, the idea all started with the coaches. Head coach Eric Fekete coordinated the event, but the Bobcats wanted to use the activities as a springboard for the upcoming season.
“We took on ‘The Program’ as a way to leave on a high note and keep the team motivated over break and to give us a high standard,” Messina said.
Messina believes the military style outlook can transition with the team.
“It’s about being perfect, and if you don’t correct your mistakes as a team, the enemy will correct them for you,” Messina said. “There would be times where we would make a mistake in practice, and kids would write it off. Now, whether you are a freshman or a captain, anybody will correct anybody on the field.”
Messina also added that the team now understands that they must set and achieve higher standards. He has already seen that mindset move into the weight room as well as the practice field.
For Messina, “The Program” emphasized communication.
“To work through certain obstacles, to find the most efficient way to complete a task, to communicate from the leader to the team so that everyone was always on the same page,” Messina said.
While it was a two-day test, the Bobcats are looking to utilize the benefits of “The Program” for the stretch run into the NEC playoffs and beyond.
“I feel that the exercises helped to shape our attitudes for the rest of the year,” Pendergast said. “As a whole, we seem more focused on our goals and more willing to go to battle for each other. We have a better understanding of what we each bring to the table and how we all can help the team.”