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U.S. Marines prepare Thunder for football season and life

Group team photoOn Tuesday, Aug. 23, Thunder football practice took a different twist as Head Coach Jon Cole and staff stepped aside and let the U.S. Marine Corps take over.

Maj. Mastin Robeson, Commanding Officer, Recruiting Station Albany and his team of nine regional Marine recruiters put the football team through an intense three-hour leadership seminar. The seminar focused heavily on respect, leadership, teamwork and heart—qualities that Maj. Robeson said are fundamental to success on the playing field and in life.

He explained that football games are not won on the field; they are won in practice. Practice conditions, builds skills, and creates a team. That sense of teamwork is critical because individuals do not win football games—teams do.

But every team needs leaders, people who can direct an organization toward a common goal. Team captains and star players are most often seen as leaders, but each player is a leader. Leadership is as much about setting an example as it is telling others what to do. He said leaders earn the right to lead by demonstrating their willingness to do what they ask others to do. He said as a Marine in combat, he must be willing to step into battle first.

By definition, teams must work together. Each person must do his part to the best of his ability.

Teams must also demonstrate the intangible quality of heart. For the Marine, heart is best described in the term “esprit de corps,” the ability to become one by setting aside their own pride and ambition for the group. That level of commitment and respect, Maj. Robeson said, is built in the preseason.

For the remainder of the time, the Marines led the Thunder through tough warm-up drills and team building challenges. The seminar left every player exhausted, but hopefully changed.

“This was good, I hope what they learned today will carry over into our practices and the entire football season.” said Coach Cole.

“Today has the potential of helping us set aside the ‘me’ and focus on the team. If that happens, this could be a great season.”

The day was made possible when local Marine recruiter Sgt. Claudio Rodriguez recommended Central Valley as a candidate for the Recruiting Station Albany Leadership Seminar. He said Central Valley was a great school with a good football program, but that some of the old Ilion-Mohawk rivalries persisted. He recognized the seminar as an opportunity to help the Thunder come together and realize their potential as a team. He spoke with Coach Cole who was open to the idea.

The Thunder varsity football season kicks off at South Jefferson High School at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2.  The first home game is at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept 16 versus Oneida High School. JV opens its season at home at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3 versus the Institute of Technology (Syracuse Central).