Peppas train through the pain

Benjamin Gadams
Contributing Writer

Sometimes it seems like you have to be a little crazy to be a VCU Peppa.

This fall, the VCU pep band braved early mornings, push-ups and buckets of ice water in 45 degree weather. By being a little crazy in training, the pep band plans to bring their nationally-known energy to the upcoming men’s basketball season.

Training for basketball season, the peppas did army crawls while doused in water. Photo by Christian Martinez

Members of the pep band met in front of the Siegel Center every morning at 5 a.m., Tuesday through Friday. Tuesday through Thursday, the workouts were led by Ralph Petrella, VCU Athletics’ assistant sports performance coach.

The focus of the training camp was to emphasize a healthy lifestyle and fitness among the band, as well as build teamwork and strengthen the bonds between members.

The band was split into six teams, and from there the teams were pitted against each other in relay races across the court. The races involved a variety of motions, including sprinting, crab walks and log rolls. The penalty for losing one of the races was having to do the chicken dance for 30 seconds. All but one team ended up having to dance.

The Peppas wrapped up day one with jogging around the Siegel Center, chanting, “You don’t want to go to war with the Rams.”

Day two involved more races between the teams, and added emphasis on supporting each other within the teams. When members of the band struggled, everyone would gather around to cheer on and encourage anyone that needed help. The last person to finish would always prompt cheers and applause, making sure that no one was a loser.

“The band exhibited some of the greatest teamwork and spirit that I had ever seen,” Petrella said.

Once Petrella’s workout was done, pep band director Ryan Kopacsi added a little extra work for those wanting more. Kopacsi’s workout involved thick, heavy ropes and a lot of squats in the Siegel Center’s weight room.

Day three was game day. The Peppas had worked hard, and it was time for a reward. Tired from the previous day’s workout, the band was soon able to pump themselves back up.

After warming up, the band went through a number of team building exercises, such as one where the teams had to figure out creative ways to carry a team member across the floor.

Day four was both the most challenging and the most fun. The band carpooled over to Richmond Fire Department Station 17. A course was set up in the station which included setting up ladders, carrying hoses, using pikes, hitting boxes with sledgehammers and dragging dummies. Kopacsi led the outdoor workout. The band split in half, one half running the course, with the other half going with Kopacsi.

The workout started out easy enough, with a simple lap around the track. Then came push-ups and sit-ups. Afterward was an army crawl up a small hill. During the climb, Kopacsi stood at the top and sprayed everyone down with a hose, muddying up the hill and their clothes. The final step was dunking their heads in a bucket of ice and 30 more curl-ups. The air was cold, but the ice was colder. Once that was done, the band could head inside and begin the course.

I participated in the fire department training and was the last to run the course. When I set up the ladder and picked up the hose, everyone started to cheer wildly for me, the last one. I dragged out hoses and crawled across the floor. I poked at the ceiling with a pike and pulled down weighted bars with it. I hauled a fan across the floor and pounded a box three feet across the floor with a sledgehammer. By this point the cheers were all I could hear. The support of the pep band was incredible. Last but not least I dragged a dummy across the floor and around some cones. The fun was over, and it was almost time to go home.

Kopacsi had one last treat in store before the band left. As payback for spraying us all with the hose, he was going to climb up the hill and let us spray him. The pep band showed no mercy, training three hoses on him constantly as he crawled up and did his curl-ups.

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