TOWSON, Md. - To strengthen team culture and start off Fall Ball on the right note, the Towson men's lacrosse team welcomed former Navy SEAL Coleman Ruiz and "The Program" into Johnny Unitas ® Stadium early Monday morning.
"I want to say thank you to Coleman Ruiz for coming here and leading this exercise to get us started the right way," said head coach Shawn Nadelen. "But from now on, it's on us. We need to take what we learned this morning and establish our own identity and embrace it. I think this was extremely productive for us today."
At 6 a.m. Ruiz, a 12-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, who went on six deployments to the Middle East, served on multiple SEAL teams and also wrestled at the U.S. Naval Academy, led the players, coaches, support staff onto the field. He began by putting them through their paces with call-and-response calisthenics led by upperclassmen. Walking stretches built to jogs and sprints before the Tigers broke into two groups for competition.
The groups took turns completing three sets of log carries and eight-count body builders before re-forming into groups of four to complete fireman carries up the stadium steps, wheelbarrow walks and dead drags, where one player dragged a prone teammate 10 yards before switching roles. The physical activity ended with a unison attempt at one perfect jumping jack to drive home how hard it is to be the best when mentally and physically exhausted.
After a brief rest, the team reconvened with Ruiz to talk about levels of leadership, effective relationships, motivation and values.
"Good leaders focus on two things," said Ruiz. "Once you guys define for yourselves, through this exercise you're doing as a team, what the team's mission is, what the team standards are, what the team goals are, the leaders of the team are going to stay focused on two things.
"First, accomplishing the mission ... Every single decision you make, every single thing this team does, every standard, if it's not pointing toward the mission, you need to think about it. Second, every single decision [the leaders make should be] thinking about the warrior to their left and the warrior to their right. That doesn't mean making it easy on them. Your loyalty is first to the mission."
Ruiz finished his talk by sharing stories and experiences from his deployments to illustrate leadership qualities and not making excuses. He referenced one tour in which he lost a man from his troop to an IED explosion and how even though others suggested the troop take some time off, they kept at their mission. One week before they shipped back home, they caught the one person they had focused on for the length of their deployment.
"People will try to make excuses for you your whole life," said Ruiz. "They will. [They'll say] 'Yup, they're tired.' 'The other team played really well.' 'School's tough.' 'There's a lot of pressure on them.' Don't let them ... And don't make excuses for other people. It doesn't help them."
"The Program" was founded in 2008 with the mission of providing the best leadership and team building available. The organization designs personalized leadership and development training to challenge participants to get "that much better." "The Program" challenges participants mentally and physically to help them become better leaders and teammates. The trainings are designed to force individuals and teams to work together through shared adversity.