Hartlepool United’s pre-season certainly had a sense of the regimented this year. The Youth squad accompanied by coach Paul Stephenson spent a gruelling four days with the Royal Marines at their Commando Training Camp in Lympstone, Devon.
On arrival the Apprentices were thrown straight in to a 3-mile run and soon learned why the TV adage says 99% need not apply.
Over the four days the Apprentices navigated assault courses, endurance runs and other drills that required discipline and mental and physical strength. Up at 6am each morning all Apprentices were expected to be ready in military formation for an inspection of all kits and rooms before the day’s exercises began.
If, on inspection, general appearance (unzipped jackets or loose buttons etc) and housekeeping standards were not up to scratch punishments such as press-ups were distributed to the whole group.
Day two saw the Hartlepool Apprentices undertake team tasks and master ‘The Commando Crawl’ which was invaluable for the assault course that lay ahead of them.
The course included crossing a 12-inch gang walk twenty-feet above the ground and climbing cargo nets. The ‘Tarzan Death Slide’ proved another difficult but fun challenge for the players and staff, however both activities were completed with flying colours.
Next an endurance run with added drills proved to be an excellent lesson in teamwork as the Apprentices were given a baptism of fire in to life training to be a Marine.
Paul Stephenson, Youth Team Coach, praised the squad on their efforts,
“They have worked tirelessly, developing their physique and mental strength along the way, but more importantly a team ethic and skills that will be invaluable for life as well as football. It has also been done under real pressure from trained military personnel.”
Day three brought more team competitions with a variety of games designed to boost morale. After lunch and a change of clothing the Apprentices prepared for an overnight stay on Woodbury Common.
Upon arrival they were greeted with their first challenge when they were assigned to erect a staff tent, with no help or instructions in less than 45 minutes which was the benchmark Hull City had set the previous week. 32 minutes later they completed their task to beat ‘the tigers’ time by an astonishing 13 minutes.
Their joy was shortlived! Next on the agenda was tea, which the players had to cook themsleves over the camp stove! Under a torrential downpour they were then given a typical scenario that the Marines would carry out as part of their training. Their mission was to reach a designated point and return to camp without being seen by a Cadet group on the Common. They returned to camp at 1.30am and bedded down for the night in their Arctic Sleeping Bags.
The team returned to the campus the following morning to clean and tidy the combat kit and accommodation ready for Watford Academy who were due to arrive the following week for a five day visit.
Youth Team Coach, Paul Stephenson spoke glowingly of the four days at the Commando training camp:
“The whole experience was a great learning tool for all the staff and players. The improvement shown steadily throughout our stay is testament to how working together can make whatever task easier to achieve. I would definitely recommend that we return next summer!”