Pack football players tested by intense team-building exercises

Intense team-building exercises put Wolfpack players to the test

jgiglio@newsobserver.comApril 24, 2012 

— Carter-Finley Stadium was eerily empty late Monday night, except for an unseasonal spring chill and about 90 N.C. State football players.

The players gathered on the field and stayed until close to midnight for The Program, a team-building training exercise that is a mix between a World’s Strongest Man competition and an outtake of the movie “Full Metal Jacket.”

Eric Kapitulik, CEO and founder of The Program, put the Wolfpack players through the paces at the stadium on Monday and then continued at the pool at N.C. State’s Carmichael Gym at 4:30 on Tuesday morning.

“It’s all about leadership and it’s about accountability,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said.

It’s also about handling mental fatigue, Kapitulik pointed out to the players during a calisthenics session on Monday. Every N.C. State football practice ends with the team doing a “perfect” jumping jack. The challenge isn’t doing the jumping jack, rather doing it in unison.

“It’s mentally tough to do,” Kapitulik explained to the players. “The guy next to you wants to check out and think about themselves, instead of the team.”

Like O’Brien, Kapitulik is a Naval Academy graduate and Marine. Two years ago, O’Brien hired Kapitulik and credited the unique training with helping the 2010 team, which finished 9-4, handle adversity. O’Brien gave Kapitulik the gameball from the Wolfpack’s win over Florida State that season.

Kapitulik, 39, is as intense in person as his resume, which includes Ironman Triathlons and climbing Mount Everest, suggests. He was inspired to create The Program by his military experience. As a Marine Corps captain, he commanded a platoon that saw a training exercise in December 1999 end in tragedy.

While attempting to land on an aircraft carrier, the platoon’s helicopter crashed into the side of the ship and plunged into the water. Kapitulik pulled himself out of the sinking helicopter to safety, but seven of his men died. Part of the revenue from The Program goes to a scholarship fund for the children of his deceased comrades.

The training in The Program is designed to make understand the importance of teamwork and emphasize “the person next to you” rather than yourself.

“He’s an intense guy,” senior quarterback Mike Glennon said, “but he knows what he’s doing.”

Glennon said the Pack players knew what to expect of the training, which included hauling 35- and 50-pound sandbags and moving 7- and 14-foot log poles on the field on Monday night.

“We were much better this time than the last time,” Glennon said.

Senior safety Earl Wolff was honored as the player who most exemplified the training program’s core principles of mental and physical toughness.

O’Brien, with his military background, seemed to particularly enjoy the team-building exercise.

“You find out who your leaders are,” O’Brien said. “The whole team will be better because of it.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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