The men’s basketball team started practices two weeks ago, but their first two days were anything but practice.
The Bears got a special visit from Sam Cila of the “The Program,” an organization that is “about teaching leadership and culture building with athletic teams” said Ursinus head coach Kevin Small, who brought in Cila.
“The Program” was founded by two Navy seals, and Cila, a paraplegic with only one arm, is a retired Staff Sergeant in the US Army. The organization has existed for 10 years, and Cila has helped multiple teams ranging from The New York Jets, the Mississippi State Women’s basketball team, the University of Kansas Men’s basketball team and more, according to Small.
Cila came to the boys’ first two days of practice and put them through intense training exercises.
“[On] day one, we had to do pushups, flutter kicks, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers. The struggle was that we had to be in perfect synchronization while doing everything, and if we messed up at any point we would have to start over. So it was physically demanding because we were outside on a muddy field, but also mentally challenging because we had to stay focused” senior guard Zack Muredda said.
On the second day, they were “on the pool deck at 3:30 in the morning. They were in the pool from 4:00 to 7:00, doing things that were designed to fatigue them, but also challenge them,” said Small.
“The hardest exercise was swimming in the pool with sweatshirts on, and while treading we had to take the sweatshirt off, exchange it with another teammate, then put on that sweatshirt” Muredda said.
The team took away many valuable lessons after the grueling two days. The one that stood out the most to the players was that “we as players must lead the team, not just the coaches. We must hold everyone accountable to do their jobs and the players must stay focused on our ultimate goal,” according to Muredda.
Cila will be in contact with the team throughout the season. Small said, “He will come to a practice likely in January, and he will Skype the team at least once a month.” Having gone through physical training with Cila, and receiving mental training from him throughout the year, could be big advantage for the Bears.
“I believe the training will help us because it was shared adversity that we went through, so we had to lean on one another to get through it. It built in some trust between the team” Murredda said.
Culture, leadership, and a family-like team that holds each other accountable are things that “I’ve long felt is a priority that can differentiate Ursinus basketball with some of the other teams in our league, and now we’re getting some support in that” said Small.
The Bears have been knocking on the door the last two seasons, losing in the second round of the Centennial Conference playoffs in back-to-back years. They hope that the training from “The Program” can assist them in getting over the hump and winning their first conference championship since 2008.