While much of Austin was still in a deep slumber in the early morning hours of Sept. 23-25, Shaka Smart, his staff, and his players were already drenched with sweat, lake water, sand, you name it.
They were doing an ungodly amount of pushups on pavement in the middle of a parking lot somewhere, climbing trees with special military ladders and swimming across rivers.
Breakfast? Here, have some dirt.
All of this and oh so much more was part of an excruciating, but completely enthralling three-day session with John McGuire and his company, SEAL Team Physical Training Inc. (SealTeamPT.com)
McGuire, who spent 10 years as a Navy Seal, started his company 17 years ago last month with the hopes of helping both individuals and teams become strong, healthier and more confident.
Prior to his run to the Final Four with VCU in 2011, Smart caught wind of the company, which is headquartered out of Glen Allen, Va.
“We developed a relationship talking about character, toughness, teamwork and leadership,” McGuire said. “We’ve had quite a few discussions about leadership. Then he made his run to the Final Four.”
And Smart has stuck with him every since.
This was the fifth year the duo worked together, along with Daniel Roose, Texas basketball’s strength and conditioning coach, to strategically put together a course of action to better Smart’s basketball program.
“Daniel Roose and Shaka complement each other really well,” McGuire said. “They are a great team. Well between the two of them we put their VCU team through what we call “Hell Week,” nothing close to what a real Navy “Hell Week” is like but every day was something different. Because of them we have been in Sports Illustrated, ESPN and have started training teams across the country.”
To be clear McGuire didn’t put Texas’ basketball team through SEAL training. This is more team bonding, breaking through individual barriers for the betterment of the program.
“There’s no cussing and there’s no yelling,” McGuire said. “We get them outside their comfort zone and prove to them no matter how tired we are we can always do more than we think we can.
“These teams are going to run into adversity this season. No matter how experienced your coach is you can’t prepare for everything that’s going to go right or wrong. So we get them comfortable being uncomfortable.”
And that meant doing a whole bunch of the unconventional.
“I don’t want to give you the secret sauce but they climbed ladders up into trees, they swam across rivers, they paddled boats, they rolled around in the sand,” he said. “They received a lot of messages about how to overcome adversity with teamwork.”
Smart obviously feels like this training makes a difference since he continues to put his programs through it, but did McGuire see it benefit this Texas team?
“You would have to be blind if you hung out with Texas last week and didn’t see a change. Holy cow,” he said. “You’d have to be blind to not see that they were more cooperative, more selfless.”
McGuire was really struck by the growth of Longhorns point guard Isaiah Taylor.
“There’s one young kid that was supposed to go to the NBA this year but Shaka got him to return,” McGuire said, alluding to Taylor, who was oh-so close to turning pro after last season. “That guy, when it was all over with, he came up to me and was just telling me how much he learned. That makes my day.
“He wants to be a good leader and he definitely let go of some of the things that were holding him back. He put himself out there.”
He got comfortable being uncomfortable. So to did the rest of the program.
“We saw them rally come together. They were really fired up,” McGuire said. “Players said stuff to me like, “I’ll never forget this’ or ‘I really appreciate what you did, I see a big change in myself.’
“We gave them challenges that, I don’t care who you are, you’re not prepared for. By the end of the week they were charging forward.”