Rams basketball trains with SEALs

Peter Mason
Contributing Writer

Head coach Shaka Smart with junior guard Melvin Johnson after an underwater breathing exercise as part of Jon McGuire’s Navy SEALs training. Photo by John McGuire

For the fourth straight offseason under head coach Shaka Smart, the men’s basketball team participated in the Navy SEALs training program led by head instructor John McGuire. In addition to men’s basketball, McGuire’s program welcomed other VCU teams into the fold: men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and women’s basketball.

Located at 10809 W. Broad St, McGuire’s company, Seal Team Physical Training, has operated for 16 years. McGuire founded the company in 1998 with the vision of helping people become stronger, healthier and more confident. A Navy SEAL for ten years, McGuire said he experienced firsthand how the combination of teamwork and physical fitness can bring out the best in people. Four years ago, McGuire met VCU strength and conditioning coach Daniel Roose at a function in Richmond. After some discussion, he realized that the SEALs training program would be a great way to get VCU basketball ready for their season each year.

 “The toughest teams always win,” McGuire said. “The toughest team doesn’t always mean the biggest muscles. It means a team that can handle adversity.”

McGuire’s training is designed to help teams be tougher than their opponents during games. For men’s basketball, Smart, along with his entire staff participates with the team in drills and training throughout the course, building on an already solid team chemistry.

“Communication, leadership, team-building, they always hit us with some form of adversity or multiple forms of adversity and its good for our guys because that’s what we are going to face in games particularly on the road and against great teams,” Smart said.

McGuire has followed VCU’s basketball success over the years and says its success starts with Smart’s leadership.

“(Shaka) Smart really motivates the guys,” McGuire said. “I think that’s really going to help them have a great season.”

Training for the men’s basketball team spanned over five days with exercises that would test the team’s endurance and perseverance. Mile-long runs, water rafting and lodging hefty sandbags were just some of the excruciating exercises participants had to endure. Drenched in mud and dirt, teammates would continually push each other to succeed and senior forward Treveon Graham was appreciative of everyone’s effort.

“We went through a lot, it was a good week, good team building, good way to work hard and fight through adversity,” Graham said. “When we’re tired we can push through, we can count on each other.”

Women’s basketball coach Beth O’Boyle said she spoke with Smart about the training and he explained the regimen as a great experience.  O’Boyle would welcome the opportunity to have her players partake in the SEALs training.

“With the Navy SEALs training, we wanted our players to be really uncomfortable,” O’Boyle said. “We wanted them to have to work as a team and communicate. It had to be something completely different from basketball. We put our team through about four days of it and it was awesome.”

Sophomore guard Keira Robinson was one of the participants in the SEALs training over the summer and she said the experience with her teammates was fun and challenging.

“It was very different, it helped us build as a team,” Robinson said. “We learned our weaknesses so we can work on them on the court. We learned how to communicate better, follow instructions, and basically the Navy SEALs helped us develop as a team and work on some of the stuff we needed.”

SEAL Team PT has expanded to five cities, and McGuire said he hopes more expansion is on the horizon so his message can continue to grow.

“I’m looking for bigger and better ways to get respect and teamwork out,” McGuire said. “I want to get bigger and better platforms to get that word out.”

McGuire has done his training programs for other Division I schools. McGuire’s training isn’t just exclusive to student-athletes and student programs. McGuire offers classes for people of all ages. McGuire says he has 16- and 82-year-olds in the same class, and a good number of VCU students, who are offered the classes at half-price. He says he feels young people often doubt themselves so reaching out with his program is a way to steer those individuals in the right direction. It’s the very challenge that got SEAL Team PT in motion years ago when McGuire was asked to mentor kids coming out of the Navy. Years later, McGuire still has that same motivation to help others succeed.

 “We would love to have more VCU students in the program,” McGuire said. “What I’d like to do with my company before I run out of breath is to help as many people improve in the world as possible.”

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