On Nov.30, both the Gator baseball and softball teams tested their strengths and wits in a Field Leadership Reaction Course. The event is run by the University of Florida Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. The purpose of the training is to evaluate the physical and mental will of the players, see how they react to stressful situations, and encourage team bonding.
How FLRC Works
The baseball and softball teams split up into equal numbered groups. For this specific exercise, there were three teams of about ten baseball players and three teams of nearly six softball players. All six of these groups competed against each other. Upon arrival at the training site, Van Fleet Hall, the players underwent a rigorous physical training session. The team that had the most overall reps for the assigned exercises was able to pick which training site they could go to first.
There were six different locations around the UF campus that each held a unique event. Each station either forced the players to think critically to solve an issue or pushed them to the limit physically. All of the events were timed. Additionally, the players were tasked with carrying “sensitive items,” from station to station. The teams carried a 35-pound kettlebell, a full water jug, and two 35-pound ruck sacks. However, the baseball team had an additional kettlebell for the extra players.
The Six Stations
The first station required players to transfer a marble only using six-inch pipes a distance of 30 feet as quickly as possible. But if the marble fell, teams had to restart.
Next, the second station had a bucket filled with water. A bungee cord surrounded the rim of the bucket, and multiple pieces of rope were attached to the cord. Players worked as a team to secure the cord around the bucket using just their assigned pieces of rope. Then the team needed to carry the bucket to four stations without spilling any water.
Moving to the third station, teams traversed an obstacle course while carrying a team member in a chair. Halfway through the course, players stopped and had the task of organizing themselves in birth order without talking. The cadet that ran the station would check the accuracy of the team’s positioning. If incorrect, the team gained added an additional two minutes to their time.
The fourth piece of the course tasked players to army crawl through an obstacle course. The path was only two feet high, but 40 feet long. If a team member accidentally touched a piece of the rope that simulated barb wire, the entire squad had to restart. At the end of the path players partnered up and fireman-carried each other approximately 30 meters. At the end of this distance, players switched and went back. In order to complete the event, players had to crawl through the obstacle course again.
The fifth event equipped teams with two large wooden logs. The squads would have to go through a marked path of the Hume Field woods as quickly as possible carrying the log and ruck sacks.
Finally, the last event of the course required players to critically think. There were four small platforms made of bricks and four pieces of wood of different length. Teams moved across the platforms at the Stadium North Lawn only using the wood without touching the ground.
Key Takeaways for Florida
This event is supposed to show who can step up and be a leader for their respective team. But at the same time, it’s a fun and competitive experience with valuable lessons that can be carried into the season. Additionally, the UF ROTC program engages the baseball and softball team with scenarios they normally wouldn’t encounter. While undergoing physically and mentally stressful tasks, teams are encouraged to come together to tackle an obstacle.
For senior softball pitcher Delanie Gourley, this is her fourth and final time participating in the event. She said she looks forward to the event because of the exposure to a different type of training. Also, she said how exercises like this show she can rely on her teammates in tough situations.
While Gourley offered her veteran experience, I was able to speak with the softball team’s freshman utility player Jamie Hoover. She said the FLRC can help teach essential communication skills and it’s good to know her teammates have her back.
Freshman pitcher and outfielder Andrew Baker said he found the experience challenging yet enjoyable. Baker said his takeaway from the day is that this would help team chemistry, especially during later parts of the season. For senior outfielder Ryan Larson, he said the event taught resiliency and taking initiative when the team needs a leader.
Historically, Florida baseball and softball have been some of the most elite teams in the country. Hopefully, the training they received from this event carries over into spring and the rest of the season.