Souhegan gets some special training

AMHERST – Mike Mancini sat in the weight room at Souhegan High School, waiting for the start of Friday afternoon football practice.

As he waited, the senior co-captain kept one eye on the door and the other on his teammates.

Mancini, and fellow senior captain Nick Truchon, knew something the rest of the team didn’t – the Sabers were about to have a couple of visitors.

Moments later, head coach Mike Lochman called for everyone’s attention, and introduced two newcomers to the team for that afternoon’s practice: Staff Sgt. Joshua Caruso and Gunnery Sgt. Justin Park.

The Sabers were about to experience leadership training with members of the United States Marine Corps.

"Each winter, coaching staffs go to a number of coaching clinics, and at one we’ve been attending the last couple of years, the Marine Corps has been present there to talk about leadership and character building," Lochman said. "One of the things they offer to football teams is to do this program, so that’s where we got the idea that it might be good for Souhegan football."

Coming off a 5-3 season with several seniors returning, Lochman felt the one thing the team needed to work on moving forward were the intangibles that the coaching staff could spend time talking about, but perhaps couldn’t get the players to understand.

Lochman thought what better way than to teach the Sabers what they needed to learn than with the help of the Marines.

"We had a feeling that with a veteran team coming back that we have the potential for a special year," he said. "But our theme through the whole offseason has been that potential means nothing, that we had to put certain things together. I had a hope that this type of a program would teach our players about the intangibles of character and leadership that I think are the next step that we need to achieve to reach our goals."

After a brief introduction, practice moved outdoors, where Caruso lined the Sabers up and had them count off into groups of five. He then showed them the workout they’d be doing – run 10 yards, do 10 reps of an exercise, run back to the start and do 20 pushups. Then do it again, this time going 20 yards and doing 20 reps, and continuing that up to 50 of both.

But in order to move onto the next exercise, all members of the team had to finish their pushups.

"I thought it was harder than I expected, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way," Mancini said. "It was perfect. Everyone came together and everyone was helping each other. Everyone was counting off (reps), we came together as a group, and when you finished early, you went on to the next group that wasn’t finished and helped them out."

Not only did the Sabers encourage and cheer each other on, but Truchon saw something else that made him feel good about the workout.

"When we did our minicamp last week with Milford and Trinity and some other teams, we did a pretty hard conditioning circuit and some guys had to stop and not finish because they were feeling tired," he said. "That (Friday) was harder than what we did and we didn’t have any guys stop. Everyone fought through until the end. I’m really proud of guys for that."

While it might have been eye-opening work for the players, it was just as much so for Lochman.

"I’ve learned more about my team in the last 10 or 15 minutes than I had in the last two practices combined," he said. "This is just as important for me as a coach as it is for the team because we learn so much about the character and the capabilities of the guys and what their limits are.

"What I really would like to see is that these guys take great lessons out of this about how to work together, how to push each other, how to carry each other through tough times and trust each other."