COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – Navy SEALs put 38 men and women from the United States Olympic Sailing team through an afternoon and morning of cold, gritty SEAL-candidate training at Memorial Park near the Olympic Training Center here March 10-11.
The SEAL & SWCC Scout Team, at the request of Olympic Training Center staff and United States Sailing Coach Kenneth Andreassen, led the sailors through two sessions of grueling exercises with heavy logs and calisthenics in the frigid cold Colorado wind with the object of sharpening the team’s mental edge leading up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The day began with an education in mental toughness from the SEALs, who taught them how SEALs use goal setting, visualization, and anxiety-suppressing breathing techniques to condition their minds for tough situations. They spoke of their personal trials, failures and accomplishments in Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL (BUD/S) training and told the team to prepare themselves for a BUD/S-like test of their willpower. Then the sailing team ran a mile to Memorial Park to warm up for a bonding experience they would never forget.
The men and women endured countless push-ups, performed teamwork exercises, lifted heavy logs, immersed themselves in a frigid nearby lake, and rolled in dirt until they were filthy from head to toe. Then they did it again and again until they were exhausted and had to dig deep down inside themselves to persevere.
“I think today was fantastic,” said Coach Andreassen. “It was phenomenal and it really taught us some good lessons. When things get tough, we have to keep on going. You have to put yourself in tough situations because if you can manage that, you can manage anything. “
Andreassen knew working with the SEALs would be special, but he never knew his sailors would be pushed so far.
“I pictured a tough day but it was tougher than I expected,” Andreassan said. “Our guys and girls are going to look back on this and know they have more confidence and they can face the tougher conditions.”
Amanda Clark, skipper, said learning mental toughness techniques, such as goal setting, would go a long way in competing against the world’s best sailing teams.
“I think everything in goal setting rings true,” Clark said. “Its race to race, tack to tack. It’s not looking at something as big as the Olympics because it is so long that it can distract us from achieving our goals.”
The relationship between the United States Olympic Committee and Naval Special Warfare has been mutually beneficial. Olympians from several teams, including rugby sevens, rowing, swimming, field hockey, and water polo, have improved their performance after training with the SEALs. Some, including members of the water polo team, medaled in the Olympics after their SEAL training. Meanwhile, the SEALs at Naval Special Warfare have had the satisfaction of watching the athletes be successful and spread their message of SEAL career awareness to high-performance athletes.
“We’ll be watching them,” said one SEAL, “and hope they get medals for the United States.”