Duke basketball head coach, Mike Krzyzewski returned to his roots Oct. 15 to immerse his 2012 Blue Devils in Fort Bragg Leadership Reaction Course.
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an Army captain, Krzyzewski gave his team a taste of a Soldier’s life.
“This is an unbelievable opportunity for us to learn about teamwork, trust and camaraderie,” said Krzyzewski. “You learn by being with the best and our military is the best team in the whole world, especially the Army. To actually be at Fort Bragg and be around people who have pride and have experience in the ultimate teamwork, is great. I think this kind of experience can only be beneficial for our basketball team.”
The mission for the Blue Devils was more than just giving the team new workout scenery and perfecting a deep three point shot off a screen, this trip different challenges that probably won’t be replicated anywhere else.
“Leadership is not given, it’s earned. You can get the title of being a leader but that doesn’t make you a leader,” said Krzyzewski.
Taking it to another level for the team started with a 5:45 a.m. wake-up call and the team marched to the PT field for physical training and a two-mile run. Afterwards players, coaches and team managers faced the obstacle course.
“They do so many things that we can’t compare to,” said power forward Ryan Kelly. “It really makes you understand that basketball is a game. We do it for a living, but these guys are doing something much more important than we are. I love what I do, but I appreciate what they do more.
“It’s much harder out here than it looks,” said. Kelly. “The experience is something I’ll never forget.”
The value of what the players took away from the experience was not lost on assistant head coach, Steve Wojciechowski who participated in the obstacle course with the team.
“A thing like today really improves us as a team because it puts our guys out of their comfort zone,” said Wojciechowski. “Being out here really forces these guys to learn more about one another.”
At the end of the day, the Duke Blue Devils took to the basketball court at Funk Physical Fitness Center to practice, and in a moment of perspective, they stopped stretching drills to give Soldiers a standing ovation as they took their seats to observe practice.
Through 38 years as a head coach, Krzyzewski said he still relies heavily on his West Point and Army experiences to be a better coach to players who come to be a part of the Duke basketball program.
“I learned what it was to be someone who never looked at failure as a destination and if you got knocked down you got right back up,” said Krzyzewski. “I also learned that you can never accomplish something alone. You have to accomplish it together, as a team. So teamwork, don’t let failure knock you back, be mission oriented and understand that everybody in your unit has an opportunity to help you win,” said Krzyzewski.
“Those are the core principles I’ve used whether I’m coaching at West Point, Duke or with our national team in the Olympics.”