UT Softball: Judgment Day - YouTube
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Exhausted and pushed to the edge, the Tennessee softball team found itself at gut-check time, treading water in the deep end of Allan Jones Aquatic Center early Tuesday morning.
The UT coaching staff had a surprise for the Lady Vols upon their return from the holiday break and this was it - a grueling two-day, team-building and leadership-development activity called The Program.
All 19 Lady Vols were using every muscle in their tired bodies to keep afloat after two rigorous days of this boot camp. The final task sounded relatively simple: 19 people tread water with sweatshirts on, take off the sweatshirts, hold them above their heads for two seconds, switch sweatshirts with a teammate and then put on the newly-acquired sweatshirts - all in the water and in 45 seconds.
However, after a few unsuccessful attempts to reach 45 seconds, this was the team's last chance. With mission leader Ellen Renfroe keeping her head above the water and shouting towards appointed assistants Whitney Hammond and Tory Lewis to check the status of teammates out of her line of sight, the Lady Vols functioned as one unit. With exhausted arms and legs, they maneuvered in and around the water-heavy sweatshirts, pulled and pushed on each other to help keep teammates' heads above water and accomplished the task in just over 43 seconds.
The first two days of the Tennessee softball team's 2013 preseason training would not be about softball at all. They were about pulling together, facing adversity, holding friends and teammates accountable, understanding that single actions can yield team consequences and never relenting when faced with a challenge.
"This was an amazing experience," Tennessee co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "Being a former military officer with two combat tours, I was able to identify closely with their tactics. Both instructors were highly qualified. The lead instructor, a major with three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and a purple heart, was tough, demanding and unyielding. This was a very realistic and challenging course resembling warrior boot camp. The instructors utilized sandbags, 100-pound telephone poles and land and water rescue drills."