Read about the Knights' trip in the Daytona Beach News-Journal
By Todd Dagenais
Each year, we try to do something unique to help with our team cohesion. Last year, because we were a team that really "liked" each other, I wanted to bring out a more competitive side. Therefore we went to a local paintball yard and had some good paintball wars. We quickly found out who the competitors were, and we also found out who were the players that needed to compete harder or smarter. They were the players bleeding from various spots on their body....lol.
This year, our entire team building program has been very carefully manufactured. About two weeks ago I sent an email to the team telling them, "This pre-season training camp is about preparing a worthy champion. It's going about taking a piece of raw iron and collectively hammering it into a finely crafted piece of steel ... forged by fire, shined by relentlessness, and sharpened into a deadly edge with discipline. This pre-season will not be easy, but we will walk out of it worthy of sitting on a championship throne."
On Friday morning we held our annual photo session at 7:45am then immediately boarded the vans for a day trip up to the Pioneer Settlement north of Deland. They have a working blacksmith shop up there run by a passionate young artist named Jordan Thomas. Along with his colleague Leslie Sharp and brother Josiah Thomas, Jordan immediately started working with the players on the understanding the concept of metal work....starting with making the fire that will burn in excess of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Obviously there is an inherent danger working with coal heated to this temperature, and with metal heated to a red or white hot glow. This danger was very real, and had to be respected at all times. I was very impressed with our intensity and focus, but found it very interesting when we started to get small careless burns as our mental focus waned. It was a great lesson in maintaining our focus for a long period of time until we finish.
The team spent the morning learning how to heat the metal then pound it into basic shapes. The first projects was to take a metal rod, heat it, then pound it into the pointed end. From there they worked on pounding and twisting the metal into a decorative hook to hang on the wall. It took close to 3 hours and putting the metal into the fire 15-20 times before this could be achieved. All of this in 90 plus degree heat AWAY from the forging stations (nearly 110 close to them).
After lunch we went back to our forging stations to construct a team project. Jordan thought it would be a great idea for the entire team to create their own small metal project that would be riveted together into a larger sculpture. Jordan forged a metal ring with 15 holes pounded into it. The team went to work on something that would have meaning to them. Australian Loren Cory created a small boomerang, Pre-Med student Tory McCutcheon created a metal sculpture of an EKG heartbeat, and freshman Kaci Thompson created a metal cross. All 15 players then worked with Jordan to affix their art to the team ring. The most amazing part is that all of this was done without the use of modern machinery. The only electricity used was for the overhead lights when an afternoon storm blew in, and one forging station with a small electrical fan because we had too many people to only use the 1700's-1800's forging stations. Everything else was done completely by hand.
The message to the team was that we are like the piece of raw iron that each of them started with. We are hardened, tough, at times unyielding, but far from a finished piece of art. Amazing things happened to a raw piece of iron when it's subjected to heat, pressure, and stress. Iron heated to over 2000 degrees can become malleable, the internal molecules begin to reform and line up in a manner that actually strengthens the original piece of iron. The result is a finished product that, through heat, pressure and stress become stronger, tougher, and more functional than before.
I'm hoping that we have a team in late November that bears a close resemblance to the team project that will hang proudly in our locker room serving as a daily reminder of what we can become.