Badgers aim for belt in conditioning program

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

OK, confession time.

I got really into pro wrestling during fifth and sixth grades, and refused to believe those who claimed it was fake. I still remember going to see the original Ultimate Warrior, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and a casket match between The Undertaker and Sid Justice at the Cow Palace in South San Francisco, circa 1992. I also collected the (then-WWF) action figures, though I never got my hands on Andre The Giant. Good times.

Why do I reveal this?

Well, Wisconsin's new strength and conditioning coach took a page from the WWE in shaping the team's winter program. Ben Herbert, who took over for longtime strength coach John Dettmann in January, decided players needed a new incentive in the program after a lackluster 2008 season that featured several late-game letdowns.

As The Capital Times' Jim Polzin writes, Herbert bought a WWE replica belt that became the prize for the group of players who tallied the most points in a series of strength and conditioning competitions, which included a backward sled pull.

"The belt, which Herbert found using an internet search, includes faux diamonds and a spinning center plate with the WWE logo. It caught Herbert's eye because the logo resembles the Motion W. Engraved on the belt is the word 'tonesetters,' the theme of Herbert's message to the players in the wake of a 2008 season in which the Badgers failed to live up to high expectations."

The winning group included defensive linemen and linebackers, which bodes well because both units lost multiple starters in the offseason.

Herbert also did things to increase accountability among the players. If anyone showed up late to the team's bi-weekly 6 a.m. runs, the start time was pushed back 30 minutes.

"At the end of each session, Herbert had the team form one giant circle and all but two adjacent players held hands, leaving a broken link in the chain. The player who was late had to stand in the middle of the circle 'just to make sure everybody saw who it was that they can't count on,' Herbert said. 'They'd look around and they'd know who they could, and then they also know who they couldn't.'"