I recall sleeping with one eye open and being so petrified of missing that early morning wakeup I barely got any shut eye at all. Believe me you don’t want to be the person who sets the alarm for 5 p.m. instead of 5 a.m.
All the negatives aside, no other time of the year gives a coach a barometer on his team more than this one. The hope is that a bonding process will begin that will last throughout the year.
A player hunched over holding their shorts is regular occurrence at these training sessions, and though on the brink of exhaustion, their teammates will pull them through. Leaders emerge and character is tested. Though you feel like you’ve run the Boston Marathon in less than an hour, it’s amazing what the mind can will you to do for yourself and others.
I’ve always favored the way Self handles his version of preseason conditioning which he affectionately calls, “Boot Camp”. Maybe because it’s nearly identical to what I went through and I recall the success it led to for my college team. Or it’s possible I remember what I learned about myself and my teammates on those early mornings.
It’s not just about responding to an unfamiliar “call” time. It’s about fighting the urge to skip that 11 a.m. class even though you’d love to get a nap in. It’s about showing up for afternoon pick up games and individual workouts, and then being able to hit the books at night. Preseason conditioning is really not about the bouncing ball at all.
This is the time of the year Kansas will lay the groundwork for the toughness required to win a national championship. Pay attention when you read articles related to Boot Camp – they will tell you a lot about who will fill leadership roles on this team all season long. That doesn’t mean it will reveal who will start or be the leading scorer, but it could be an indicator as to who the team will be able to lean on during the season.
For the freshmen, fear will be the overriding feeling and it’s guaranteed to be an eye-opening experience. Bill Self’s talented youngsters will get a taste of the big time and the type of toughness and effort required to compete at this level. I can also tell you that next year they’ll head back to Lawrence in even better shape. You get wiser as you get older. Just ask this year’s sophomores.
Everything at these conditioning sessions is goal-oriented but centered around goals the Jayhawks need to reach as a team. In other words, everyone runs the mile in under seven minutes or they all run again. It makes you push yourself and others.
Boot Camp is one of those things that you curse while it’s happening but later on you’ll realize how critical it was. It makes the rest of the season seem “easy”.
And one last thing -- it sure does feel good when it’s over and you can say you survived.