'The Program' Leaves an Impression on UI Softball

Sept. 28, 2012

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa softball team moved outside its typical field of play last week, participating in “The Program’s Judgment Day.”

What is “The Program’s Judgment Day”?

Head coach Marla Looper brought in two members of The Program’s staff, Sam Cila and Gen Richardson, to work with the softball team on leadership and team-building through a series of physically intense exercises called `Judgment Day.’ `Judgment Day’ takes place over two days. One day is spent on a designated field, the other in the pool.

The Program’s mission is to develop better leaders and create more cohesive teams. The Hawkeyes feel that is the result of the two-day experience.

“The experience was very rewarding,” said senior pitcher Chelsea Lyon. “It was extremely challenging, but it allowed the team to come together as one group and `one heartbeat.’ It also allowed for some of the girls to stand out and really learn what it means to be a team leader.”

The experience challenges all involved, pushing participants to their limits.

“The Program was intense in every mental and physical aspect,” said senior outfielder Johnnie Dowling. “The two program leaders, Sam and Gen, had very strong personalities, which ultimately pushed us to go further in every challenge. In the beginning, the whole team was fairly intimidated by both, for good reason. Both individuals are accomplished human beings and have gone through many obstacles throughout their lives.”

Cila is a former member of the United States Army that distinguished himself for his heroism, ultimately earning a Purple Heart. Richardson played ice hockey at Boston College before competing on the U.S. women’s ice hockey team.

“For me, they were an inspiration when going through the challenges,” said Dowling. “Sam explained to us before we started that his life could have easily been taken while he was serving in Iraq, but because he had great teammates, he survived a life threatening experience. I always kept Sam’s story in the back of my head as our team faced each challenge.”

The challenges pushed the Hawkeyes outside of their comfort zones, which happens numerous times on the playing field.

“One of the main lessons that we took away from The Program was learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable,” said sophomore shortstop Megan Blank. “Some girls were better than others at swimming and treading water.”

“We also had to learn to be quick, yet not rush, which applies directly to softball. Our game moves extremely fast. The second we try to rush is when things start to go south. While in the pool, we had to tread water with sweatshirts on, take off the sweatshirt, hold it above our head, trade with a partner, and put the sweatshirt back on; all as fast as possible. The first time we tried to attack this challenge, it was extremely challenging, but we finally figured it out. The stronger swimmers paired up with those who needed help and communication was crucial.”

Judgment Day provided many valuable lessons and illustrated the most important aspect in team sports: trust.

“The most challenging aspect of The Program was understanding that no task can be done without the support and trust of your teammates,” said Dowling. “We found out quickly that we could not move forward unless we all came together to complete our mission. Through the first hour of the program we were already feeling mentally and physically taxed, but once we started looking toward each other for support we were able to progress forward.”

“The Program stressed the ideas of teamwork and unity, and it really focused on putting your team before yourself,” said junior pitcher Kayla Massey. “The Program has helped the team grow by teaching us that each person matters, and without every member the team struggles as a whole.”

There is no doubt this experience has left a lasting impression on these Hawkeyes.

“It exposed weaknesses which may never have been uncovered without the mental and physical pressures of The Program,” said Dowling. “I point out the weaknesses because I feel that no one can ever truly grow unless they know where they fall short. Not only could individuals see where they fell short but their teammates could see it too, which forces each player to be accountable for one another.

“It also exposed our strength, which I was very proud of. Even though each day was a challenge, no one ever gave up, and we worked together to excel to a new level. We surprised ourselves, and are hoping to take that strength into the season.”