The Ospreys Academy players and staff moved their pre-season training programme up a gear last week when they participated in a three-day training camp at the Parachute Regiment barracks in Colchester.
Keith Hollifield, Academy Conditioning Coach, put the trip together with a view to developing squad character and mental toughness through a series of physical challenges away from a rugby environment, and it saw the party heading off to a brand new camp where the regiment’s trainees return after doing P-Company to finish their training.
Day one started with a bang as the Academy players carried out the Parachute Regiment Personal Fitness Assessment Test, which involved doing as many press-ups and sit ups as you could in two minutes and as many pull ups as you could do without coming off the bar. This was followed by a gruelling one and a half mile timed run in the blazing sunshine.
After food and re-hydration it was off to the stores for the boys to get kitted out with all they needed for the upcoming day / night exercise. This involved items such as army top and bottoms, boots, burgan’s, ponchos and 24 hour ration packs. Once kitted out, it was off to the classroom for the players to receive some much needed tuition in some map, compass and navigational work ahead of the exercise.
After food had been digested it was up to the Regiment’s gymnasium complex for one hour of circuit training, with some shuttle running thrown in for good measure. The boys were starting to feel the effects of the training but what they didn’t know was that much worse was to come.
Back at the accommodation it was on with the greens, pack the burgan and prepare for their night out in the forest. The players all piled onto the transport that took them out into Ministry of Defence owned land used by the Para’s for military training exercises. It was then a case of get out of the bus, into two ranks of three and into the forest to find a good place to set up camp. Having settled, the players primed their stoves and tucked into their ration packs, after which the regimental staff held a series of informative lectures outlining the role of the modern paratroopers. They also introduced the players to some of the weapons and parachute equipment a modern paratrooper would use.
The squad then had the opportunity to put their classroom theory to the test. In small groups the players had to navigate their way around the forest and find a series of checkpoints using an eight- figure map reference number. It was coming to the end of a very hard and very warm day which had taken its toll on the party and the boys eventually settled down in their sleeping bags for what they thought would be a well earned good night’s sleep. No such luck!
At midnight, they were ordered to get up and get ready, as there was another exercise planned. This time the players were dropped off at an unknown location and had to make their way back to base through the pitch black forest without getting caught by the Parachute staff that were out on patrol in the area. After crawling though bushes and undergrowth, climbing trees and generally sneaking around, only one of the boys made it back to camp without getting caught. By now it was the early hours of the morning, so it was back to their sleeping bags to get their heads down in the hope of some much needed rest. However, after a couple of hours of ‘painful’ sleep it was up again, helmets on and get ready for the log race.
The log race involves two teams of six-eight players carrying a big 18ft log around a two-mile course. A very hard physical test at the best of times, it was made that much tougher by the training the players had already done, the lack of sleep and the extreme heat. Amongst the shouting and screaming however the players gave a massive performance and both teams managed to get their log around the course in a record time. After breakfast the players had to break camp, pack their Burgan’s and get back on the road. No bus ride back to camp however, they had to march/run carrying their packs all the way back to camp. The group were now looking and feeling mentally and physically exhausted - but more effort was required on the assault course
The staff instructors split the group into two teams and showed the players how to get over each obstacle of the assault course safely. The assault course involved obstacles such as ditches, walls, high walks, jumps, nets, monkey bars, swings and some very high walls. This was a race and it was stated that the team who lost would have to do it again. The players and teams dug deep into their reserves and worked hard to put in great performances around the course. In their final task of the day the players were split into three equal groups and given command tasks to complete. In these tests the players have to use their initiative and skill and develop team characteristics to complete a task.
To the relief of the players, it was time to wearily get back to camp, get cleaned up, hand in their kit and get some much needed ‘scoff’ and ‘kip’. That night, players and staff went into Colchester for a bit of a get together then returned to camp for a few hours to unwind and reflect on the success of the course and its benefits for the group.
The next day was a bit more of a relaxed start. After breakfast the players carried out a three-hour review of their individual and team performances before commencing the long journey back to Ospreylia.
The Osprey Academy players and staff would like to thank the staff of the Parachute Regiment for their time, effort and professionalism in organising these three not to be forgotten days.