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Journey began on a beach in Coronado

12/19/2014, 7:20pm PST
By Kirk Kenney

SEAL training taught El Capitan football players about themselves and each other

In groups of seven, members of the El Capitan High football team combine their efforts to move 250-pound logs on the beach in Coronado.

The El Capitan High football team is one win from a state title.

The Vaqueros (14-0) play the Bay Area’s Moraga Campolindo (15-0) at noon today for the Division III state championship at the StubHub Center in Carson.

The journey began four months ago with a day at the beach.

It wasn’t a picnic.

During the first week of practice in August, El Capitan players boarded buses for the beach in Coronado. They were at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center, where every Navy SEAL has trained since 1971.

The Vaqueros got their adrenaline pumping watching a film about naval special warfare, seeing SEALs in action by sea, air and land. Then they listened to a presentation on mental toughness, goal setting, visualization and self talk. Finally, they were drilled on the beach, engaged in a series of physical challenges that included an obstacle course.

It’s all designed to teach you something about yourself as well as the guy next to you.

“They come away with a feeling of team spirit,” said Bob Rohrbach, operations officer for Naval Special Warfare Recruiting Directorate. “They realize that one guy may be the star of the team, but the team is not going to win unless everyone works with that star. And the star is not going to be a star if he doesn’t work with his teammates.”

El Capitan players emphasized two essential takeaways: the importance of teamwork and learning to push past your perceived breaking point.

Among the challenges, players in groups of seven were asked to pick up a 250-pound log and run with it in the sand to a designated spot on the beach.

What did you learn from it?

“It’s something to persevere through,” said El Capitan senior slot/cornerback Isaiah Capoocia. “Your arms just die out and you have to work as a team. You have to work together to keep it up and it takes every single person to lift it up. If one person is lagging, then the whole thing will tip and fall over. Everybody counts.

“It’s good for team bonding and to know that the person next to you won’t give up on you.”

El Capitan quarterback Brad Cagle said what resonated with him was the notion that you can always dig down and find something more inside of yourself.

“One main thing the training taught us,” said Cagle, “was that when you are working hard or playing a game and you are giving it your all and you feel like there’s nothing left, you always have another 15 percent inside of you, to help you push even harder to succeed.”

Cagle said El Capitan head coach Ron Burner reminds the players of this from time to time during locker room talks.

“I want our players to have an understanding of what the SEALs do for us and what they go through,” said Burner. “It gets into their head about what those guys go through. They talk about (SEALs) have no quit in them. No man left behind. You always have extra left in your tank.”

Burner relates the story about one SEAL who persevered when others would have given up.

“He had been shot three times, he had a broken back and he was stranded by himself,” said Burner. “He knew he had to get himself to a different point and he could barely crawl. He would tell himself, ‘I have to get to that spot right there.’ And then the next spot. He did that for two and a half miles.

“Now think about when you’re tired on the football field. ...”

Said Cagle: “It really helps all of us. In tough games, we know we can always pull out the extra 15 percent, put it all together as a team to succeed and continue on our journey.”

El Capitan has reached the final stop on that journey. At some point in the game against Campolindo, the Vaqueros likely will draw on something they discovered on a beach in Coronado.

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