‘The Program’ brings military-type training session to Lehigh baseball

Baseball players do strength drills in Taylor Gym for the Program on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. The Program brought in military soldiers to train athletes on the lacrosse and baseball teams. (Courtesy Lehigh Athletics)

Baseball players do strength drills in Taylor Gym for The Program on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016. The Program brought in military soldiers to train athletes on the baseball team. (Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)

A very simple message was conveyed to the Lehigh baseball team: “Accomplish the mission by any means necessary and take care of your men.”

On Jan. 29 and 30, the baseball team got the chance to experience what it’s like to turn those words into actions by participating in a military-style training session, which featured a combination of leadership training, team-building and physical conditioning called The Program.

The Program was founded in 2008 by ex-Marine Eric Kapitulik. In 1999, Kapitulik was involved in a helicopter crash which resulted in the death of a few of his team members and friends. After the accident, Kapitulik founded a scholarship fund to support the children of his friends who had passed, in addition to creating The Program.

“The day began very seriously with our 34-man team sitting in a classroom with two men introducing themselves and giving us some background on the goal of this workout,” junior third baseman Patrick Donnelly said.

The team spent their Saturday grinding outdoors for the field workout, which lasted five-and-a-half hours, and consisted of field sprints, army crawls and crab walks.

“They said the workout was supposed to last three hours but it took the extra two-and-a-half hours to push us to our limit,” Donnelly said. “The team came back in excellent shape and the guys really stepped up to get us through the day.”

At 5 a.m. on Sunday the team got started with the second day of training with an exercise called House of Pain.

This portion of the training combined 16 different exercises in a circle that each team member had to complete while one player stood inside the circle sparring with one of the instructors, lasting for three-and-a-half hours.

“The workouts concentrated on team building and leadership development, which is going to pay off for us in the long run,” junior catcher John Scarr said. “They were grueling tests of our resourcefulness, our will to win and keep fighting.”

After completing the training, the team said it left feeling empowered, encouraged and united. The coaching staff received positive feedback from the players about the experience. Not only had the workouts proved to be physically tough on players individually, but they also required the team to work as a unit and players to support one another. They said there was no way to complete The Program without working as a team.

“(It) was one of the coolest experiences our team has ever had,” junior outfielder Stephen Fitzgerald said. “Going into the weekend, we did not exactly know what to expect, we only knew that it would be challenging, and we were ready to attack it.”

The training program was received positively not only by the players, but also by the coaches.

Coach Sean Leary said The Program isn’t something that can practiced one day and just do, people need to be prepared for it. Leary had approached his seniors asking their opinion on participating in The Program, since they had all done it before, and they were fired up to be able to get to do it again.

During The Program, none of the coaches were involved at all. They stood back and observed, getting the chance to see how their players worked together and grow as a team.

“You can’t even fathom how much it brings your team together until you experience that type of adversity together,” Leary said.

Although The Program isn’t something that the team will participate in every year, it has proven to be a helpful tool in physical training as well as mental toughness, team bonding and leadership skills.

“This isn’t the only thing you can do to have leadership in your program, this just has to be a piece of the puzzle because it is such a challenge,” Leary said. “I’m not sure we didn’t celebrate more after day two than we did last year at our championship because we collectively completed a mission.”

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