WEST ALEXANDRIA — Members of the United States Marine Corps spent a day with 35 members of the Twin Valley South football team on Thursday, July 23, teaching them how to be leaders on and off the football field.
“We don’t just concentrate on the physical portions. Everyone thinks we just shoot rifles and kick down doors. We do a lot of that, but we also develop character,” Sgt. Maj. Dennis Bradley told the group. “That’s what we are here to do – develop character and develop leadership.”
Bradley, who is the senior enlisted advisor to the commanding office in the recruiting station in Charleston, West Virginia, went on to teach the athletes the 14 leadership traits that everyone possess in some capacity.
He used the acronym “JJ DID TIE BUCKLE”, a mnemonic device widely used in the Marines to remember the following qualities: justice, judgment, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, integrity, enthusiasm, bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty, and endurance.
“Good leaders have to develop these qualities as strengths,” said Bradley.
He went on to reference that five of the top ten Fortune 500 companies are run by former Marines. Charles Bolden, the head of NASA, is also a former Marine.
The 35 football players were broken into seven groups of five and each group had to do a short presentation on which leadership quality they valued the most. Of the seven groups, three chose unselfishness while the remaining groups chose enthusiasm, integrity, decisiveness, and dependability.
Along with those leadership traits, Bradley also discussed 11 leadership principles that all leaders should have: Be technically and tactically proficient, know yourself and seek self-improvement, know your teammates and look out for their welfare; keep your teammates informed, set the example, ensure the task is understood, supervised and accomplished; train your group as a team; make sound and timely decisions; develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates; employ your unit in accordance with its capabilities; and seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
After the classroom portion, the seven Marines in attendance put the South boys through a rigorous obstacle course using real drills and exercises that they use in training. The course ranged from suicide sprints to flipping a tire to doing a fireman carry with your teammates.
For the three groups that chose unselfishness as their most important leadership trait, the course allowed them to put that very trait to the test, said head football coach Tyler Cates.
“I think this really shows how much you need to rely on your teammates and not focus on yourself,” he said. “Being unselfish and doing things for the better of the team – that’s what we are trying to teach in football, it’s the ultimate team sport. You can’t just do your own thing. Your teammates need you to set up.”
He also said it taught his athletes how to commute under duress and how to think clearly in pressure situations.
Cates noted that the day showed him who his leaders were on the team and what to anticipate come August 1 when practices officially begin.
“Some guys are tougher than what I thought and some guys need some work. I found a few leaders that I hadn’t seen lead before, some younger guys,” he said. “This is a good thing to have right before two-a-days to give them a little glimpse of what to expect.”
The Marines closed out the day by giving awards to the top three fastest teams. The first place team finished with a time of 21:58, the second place team finished with a time of 24:30, and the third place group finished with a time of 26:56.
Bradley told the athletes the fastest group he has ever had was around 18 minutes.
He also handed out four challenge coins – an award given to Marines who have done something great for the Corp.
Four members of South received the honor, as Chad Eiler, Aaron Deaton, Jacob Bassler, and Sammy Shockey were recognized.
Jeremy Erskine may be reached at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @jerskine_RH