Cloudy
37°
Cloudy
Hi 41° | Lo 24°
Ray Duckler

Ray Duckler: Marines run their boot camp to bring MV together

  • Meghan Johnston, right, a freshman cornerback on the Merrimack Valley football team completes pull-ups alongside and cheered on by fellow teammates during a drill on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. The football team worked with members of the Marine Corps during a leadership and conditioning program.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Meghan Johnston, right, a freshman cornerback on the Merrimack Valley football team completes pull-ups alongside and cheered on by fellow teammates during a drill on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. The football team worked with members of the Marine Corps during a leadership and conditioning program.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Ivan Niyomugabo, the quarterback for Merrimack Valley's football program, does squats while holding a teammate on his back during a leadership program put on for the football team by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Ivan Niyomugabo, the quarterback for Merrimack Valley's football program, does squats while holding a teammate on his back during a leadership program put on for the football team by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.
    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Tony Yannizze, of the Merrimack Valley football team, wipes sweat from his eyes before leading the team on a run around the school's athletic fields on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. The team met early on Tuesday with members of the Marine Corps to participate in a leadership and conditioning program before their afternoon scrimmage with Bishop Brady. <br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Tony Yannizze, of the Merrimack Valley football team, wipes sweat from his eyes before leading the team on a run around the school's athletic fields on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. The team met early on Tuesday with members of the Marine Corps to participate in a leadership and conditioning program before their afternoon scrimmage with Bishop Brady.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Towards the end of their conditioning, the Merrimack Valley football team gathered around as several members of the Marine Corps spoke about leadership and teamwork.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Towards the end of their conditioning, the Merrimack Valley football team gathered around as several members of the Marine Corps spoke about leadership and teamwork.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Flanked by coaches and members of the Marine Corps, the Merrimack Valley football team huddles together following a morning of drills and conditioning put on by the Marine Corps to build teamwork and leadership on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Flanked by coaches and members of the Marine Corps, the Merrimack Valley football team huddles together following a morning of drills and conditioning put on by the Marine Corps to build teamwork and leadership on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • The Merrimack Valley football program trained with Marines on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    The Merrimack Valley football program trained with Marines on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Players on the Merrimack Valley football team hydrate after a leadership and conditioning program put on by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Players on the Merrimack Valley football team hydrate after a leadership and conditioning program put on by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Sgt. JosŽ Murillo with the Marine Corps helps Merrimack Valley freshman, Daneil Stone, move a tire during a drill on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. Nearby, Stone's father, Jeff Stone, cheered his son on with words of encouragement. "I Could not be prouder," he said while watching his son. This will be Stone's first football season.<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Sgt. JosŽ Murillo with the Marine Corps helps Merrimack Valley freshman, Daneil Stone, move a tire during a drill on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. Nearby, Stone's father, Jeff Stone, cheered his son on with words of encouragement. "I Could not be prouder," he said while watching his son. This will be Stone's first football season.
    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • From left, Evan Martin and Mitch Filion of the Merrimack Valley football team, work together to move a tire across the practice field during a conditioning drill put on by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    From left, Evan Martin and Mitch Filion of the Merrimack Valley football team, work together to move a tire across the practice field during a conditioning drill put on by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Meghan Johnston, right, a freshman cornerback on the Merrimack Valley football team completes pull-ups alongside and cheered on by fellow teammates during a drill on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. The football team worked with members of the Marine Corps during a leadership and conditioning program.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Ivan Niyomugabo, the quarterback for Merrimack Valley's football program, does squats while holding a teammate on his back during a leadership program put on for the football team by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Tony Yannizze, of the Merrimack Valley football team, wipes sweat from his eyes before leading the team on a run around the school's athletic fields on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. The team met early on Tuesday with members of the Marine Corps to participate in a leadership and conditioning program before their afternoon scrimmage with Bishop Brady. <br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Towards the end of their conditioning, the Merrimack Valley football team gathered around as several members of the Marine Corps spoke about leadership and teamwork.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Flanked by coaches and members of the Marine Corps, the Merrimack Valley football team huddles together following a morning of drills and conditioning put on by the Marine Corps to build teamwork and leadership on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • The Merrimack Valley football program trained with Marines on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Players on the Merrimack Valley football team hydrate after a leadership and conditioning program put on by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Sgt. JosŽ Murillo with the Marine Corps helps Merrimack Valley freshman, Daneil Stone, move a tire during a drill on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013. Nearby, Stone's father, Jeff Stone, cheered his son on with words of encouragement. "I Could not be prouder," he said while watching his son. This will be Stone's first football season.<br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • From left, Evan Martin and Mitch Filion of the Merrimack Valley football team, work together to move a tire across the practice field during a conditioning drill put on by members of the Marine Corps on Tuesday morning, August 20, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

The Marines invaded Penacook yesterday, hoping to whip a football team into shape.

They created a conveyor belt of sweat and grunts, six stations surrounding Merrimack Valley High’s practice field, with players punching pads, lifting weights, flipping tires, doing pull-ups, jumping on boxes and running, running, running.

Punch, lift, flip, pull, jump, run.

Then rotate and do it again.

It’s all about 60 hearts, beating in rhythm, pumping as one.

“We need to change the program, not just the team,” Head Coach Dave Jackson said during the three-hour morning workout. “We’re expecting a better season. We had a

huge discipline problem, and we’re hoping to change that this time around.”

The presence of eight Marines, each with fatigues, black T-shirts, big biceps and crew cuts, each screaming at players to dig deeper, each with a history of sacrificing for the greater good, tends to change a culture that has turned sour.

In an age of Alex Rodriguez and other rich, me-first athletes, the Marine Football Leadership Program, big in places such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, will visit your practice to create unity.

Just ask.

“We’ll be there in a heartbeat,” said Sgt. Thomas Sampson, commander of the recruiting substation in Concord.

He’s a baby-faced 26-year-old who deployed to Iraq three times and won’t talk about it, modestly saying, “It was good to serve my country; that was the best part of it. We’re Marines, so we were trained to handle any situation.”

Jackson and his coaches believe this might be the clinic’s first visit to the state. Assistant Coach Jim Farley attended a three-day coaches clinic last winter in New Jersey and knew what he had to do.

Call in the Marines.

“It stood out,” Farley said. “We realize that not only are we coaching football, but we’re teaching these guys to be better (people). Show them what hard work and dedication is truly about.”

The team needs something, a jump start after two down years. Merrimack Valley has had a single victory during Jackson’s two seasons as head coach.

And the coach knew there was more at work here than merely a lack of talent.

And that made things worse.

“Kids were not involved in a play, and they’d tell you that it wasn’t their job,” Jackson said. “Kids were not available for practice outside the building because kids were having problems inside the building. We want kids finishing games at full speed this time around.”

Jackson has seen early signs of encouragement this summer. Like more kids hitting the weight room. Like the sheer number of players in camp.

And he pointed out signals he noticed yesterday, positive elements that were missing the past two years. Look at the kids with their arm in a sling, still practicing under the hot sun. Look at J.T. Driscoll completing seven one-armed pull-ups.

Practice with an injury?

Not last season, Jackson says.

And then there was freshman Megan Johnston, as determined as she is petite, her ponytail bouncing with each stride.

“I told the players that she’s their sister and they should treat her like their sister,” Jackson said. “And they said, ‘Coach, we’re going to treat her like she’s your daughter.’ ”

She was treated like a Marine yesterday, unusually hot for this time of year. The practice field, down a short slope like a sunken living room, was alive with Marine commands, and replies of respect from players.

“Sir, yes sir!”

They pushed themselves for one last pull-up, one last lift of a 30-pound ammo case, one more flip of a monstrous 170-pound tractor tire. Star seniors like Buddy Hughes and Cole Martin encouraged exhausted reserve players to stick with it, to keep going, to dig deep.

They ran together in sync, their heads bobbing as one, repeating the chants from the Marines running with them, proclaiming their school name with volume and pride.

They posed for the team picture, they listened to Marines talk about teamwork and loyalty and commitment, and then they broke for lunch.

“My concept of being a Marine is I never did anything by myself,” Sgt. Matthew Mallak, stationed in Boston, said afterward. “I always looked after the man to my right, the man to my left, and made sure no matter what we did in life, we were always there together.”

Sgt. James Harmon graduated from Concord High 10 years ago. He served in Iraq in 2008 and ’09. His message was simple:

“It’s not someone’s fault if you lose, no matter what,” Harmon said. “If someone drops a pass, it’s the team’s fault. Never point fingers.”

When asked to expand his thoughts, Harmon said, “It’s a maturity issue. Just because you get paid millions of dollars, it doesn’t mean you’re mature.”

Sir, yes sir.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or
rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

Legacy Comments3

What kind of message does this send to our young people? The purpose of the military is to train people, indoctrinate young people to kill other human beings. BTW, were all the parents of these football players, some as young as 14, 15, informed that the Marines would be "assisting" the football coaches? In one sense, this activity is appropriate as many folks equate football as "war." On the other hand, there are other groups (Upward Bound, other coaches, former players, even band directors who can teach about the merits of "teamwork and loyalty and commitment." To have military recruiters act as "mentors" is to invite the "fox" into the henhouse. It is totally inappropriate as it continues to promote militarism (which MLK, Jr. called one of the triplets of evil besides racism and materialism) and it sends a message to our young, impressionable teens that the Marines are "heroes" and to be deified in our society. I'd recommend two books: "War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning" by Chris Hedges and "The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War" by Andrew Bacevich. Finally, read or re-read Martin Luther King's 1967 speech in NYC entitled "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" in which he called the US "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." It would appear that nothing has changed since then.

I AM one of the parents of one of these boys and I am thrilled that my son was given an opportunity to learn about teamwork, loyalty and honor from these men, who by the way, fight for the right for you to make comments such as the one above, regardless of its message. These men put their lives on the line to protect your freedoms and safety so that you don't have to. I'd recommend either moving to another country whose philosophies you agree with, or just saying thank you to our men and women in uniform.

Maybe some Marines in the classrooms would help as well.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.