No matter what happens during ACC play, on Selection Sunday or in any postseason tournament, the Maryland men's basketball program already has survived "Judgment Day" this season -- which was a two-day "team leadership" training session from The Program administered at Maryland a few weeks ago by two former Navy SEALs.
A 4-minute, 30-second video featuring highlights of "Judgment Day" was posted this week on YouTube and the school's website. It's exhausting enough just to watch, but the lasting lessons go far beyond anything physical.
Among the inspirational guideposts offered in the video by Program Teammate Coleman Ruiz, who served 12 years as a Navy SEAL and completed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan:
"Fear is infectious; so is enthusiasm."
"We only grow as individuals and teams through shared adversity."
"Never be nervous; make other people nervous."
The Terrapins got off to a tenuous start during their session but adapted well. "They started slowly on Day 2 but picked up steam as things became more challenging," Ruiz said in an email interview with Playbook. "What surprised me most was that little bit of fear and anxiety in their eyes when we started. A team this physical and that talented shouldn't be nervous about any training like this, or any games against any opponent."
Those concerns were eventually addressed.
“We overcame the apprehension of ‘Judgment Day’ as each of us brought our best overall effort and stayed focused at completing the task," Maryland junior forward John Auslander said. "We are a team and want to always be successful. We were all pushing each other to be the best.”
Among the physical challenges posed were taking sweatshirts on and off while treading water, and carrying teammates up and down the football field.
Executing the required exercises with military precision and perfection was a challenge for the players. One 15-minute task took 74 minutes to complete since the group had to start and stop on four occasions. “It was [a] great accomplishment once we were able to execute the row and columns perfectly. We were very pumped, excited and a bit exhausted,” Auslander said.
Ruiz notes the primary focus of The Program -- which has been used by more than 160 college teams across the country in the past year -- is not strength and conditioning but rather team building, leadership and mental toughness.
"Physical strength is 'entry level' stuff - everyone has it (or should have it) ... Mental toughness however -- not everyone has it! When we become more mentally tough, then we're doing some of the things that will make us (and more importantly the team) 'that much better,'" Ruiz said. "We believe 'that much better' is the difference between building a winning team and a championship team."
A similar video involving The Program's session with the Michigan State women's basketball team was posted last year. The Spartans finished 20-12 before losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament.