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Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Shaka Smart, VCU get Navy SEAL treatment

By Eamonn Brennan

The Navy SEALs are famous for their intense training procedures. According to How Stuff Works, the SEALs' training includes eight weeks of:
days are filled with running, swimming, calisthenics, and learning small-boat operations. One-to-2 mile ocean swims and running the mother of all obstacle courses are daily, and timed, events. A trainee's time for these exercises must continuously improve.

It also includes something called "drown-proofing," in which SEALs trainees, their hands and feet bound, must perform a series of underwater maneuvers, including a 100-meter swim, timed bobbing and floating exercises, and a move which requires them to swim to the bottom of the pool and retrieve an object with their teeth. There's also "surf torture," in which SEALs shift between submergence in cold water and ordered calisthenics and sprints on the beach.

Then, of course, there's "Hell Week:"
The fourth week of Basic Conditioning is known as Hell Week. This is when students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum total of four hours of sleep. Hell Week begins at sundown on Sunday and ends at the end of Friday. [...] Pretty much every evolution during Hell Week involves the team (or boat crew) carrying their boat -- inflatable rubber Zodiacs -- over their heads. Timed exercises, runs, and crawling through mud flats are interspersed throughout the five-and-a-half days. The largest number of trainees [drop] out during Hell Week.

I quote that stuff because ... well, OK, I'll admit it: I'm sort of obsessed with the Navy SEALs. But I also looked it up because I wanted to see just how close Virginia Commonwealth -- which opened its preseason training regimen with Navy SEALs-style workouts this week -- was getting to the real thing. My conclusion? VCU's drills probably wavered from the SEALs a tad. Safer that way.

But as CBSSports.com's Matt Norlander reports today, VCU did get a taste of what the SEALs go through in the Rams' own miniature version of "Hell Week." Rams strength and conditioning coach Daniel Roose took a SEALs training seminar from this guy, and he returned to Richmond with a bevy of seemingly brutal drills for his team to endure. Oh, and it's not just the team. VCU coach Shaka Smart joined in, too, and in doing so required everyone in the program -- down to the team's SID, Scott Day -- to get involved:
“We carried each other, did a lot of push-ups,” [senior Bradford] Burgess said. There was also ab work, tug-of-war and sled-tugging. Wednesday morning was more individual workouts.  “We had to run, do bear crawls, crab walking. It was a lot of long-distance running. ... He’s trying to get our mental aspects of the game right. He teaches us to battle fatigue just like our coaches have all along."

“That field was probably a hundred yards but it felt like a mile long,” Smart said. “But the great, great thing instructor McGuire preached was, when you get done, you don’t stand and rest. You go back to last. You go back to the last guy in line and help him finish.”

That's not only a great lesson in teamwork. It's also encouraging for guys like me, who wouldn't be able to finish this sort of training without four or five large men physically carrying me across the finish line. Hey, guys, a little help? (This would totally be me.)

Anyway, check out Matt's post; he's got some great photos to go along with the anecdotes. College hoops has never seen a seemingly mediocre team catalyze so brilliantly at the most important time of the season as the 2011 VCU Rams. As Smart's team was trouncing one high-major favorite after another, it was impossible not to wonder: Where did these guys come from?

If something similar happens this season, we'll know it started with a little training from the Navy SEALs.