Last winter, before his team's Cinderella run to the Final Four, VCU coach Shaka Smart met former Navy SEAL John McGuire, who told the second-year coach about his success with putting Richmond's football team and local high school squads through SEAL-inspired team-building regimens. Smart was intrigued.
And so the Rams found themselves facedown in the chilly James River this September. Over three days McGuire put VCU—Smart and his staff included—through a 90-minute barrage of exercises, including hundred-yard bear crawls, hundreds of push-ups, a tug of war and a drill in which players helped one another climb through a small window in a brick wall as quickly as possible. McGuire, who was impressed by the Rams' teamwork, says the goal of such physical work is mental. "I'm not a strength coach," he says. "I just put the squeeze on people and show them emotionally, physically, mentally we can all do 80 percent more than we think."
Many other teams also underwent nontraditional bonding exercises this off-season. See below for other examples.