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Forming a bond

Summer activities lead to trust, unity and success 

Posted: Sunday July 23, 2006 11:45PM; Updated: Tuesday July 25, 2006 6:05PM
Illinois players bonded through many charity events during the offseason.
Illinois players bonded through many charity events during the offseason.
Courtesy of Illinois
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"When we come together, we're like one big family.... It's like one heartbeat."
-- LSU free safety LaRon Landry

It's no secret that college football is a 12-month commitment. There's the three- to four-month season, spring ball, summer conditioning and preseason workouts. But outside of the typical strength-and-conditioning regimens, the summer belongs to the players. And it's while away from the watchful eyes of the coaching staff that some  groups discover their identity and come together as a unit. It's here where bonds are forged and leaders emerge.

"I believe this is the most important time of any football season, getting ready for the season," Illinois offensive lineman Matt Maddox said. "Coaches aren't around to push the players and get them to do what they want. It's the time to step up and show what kind of player you are when no one's watching you."

Some sweat together, some laugh, while others perform community service. However, whichever way the players spend their time, the goal is the same: bonding. It's developing what can't always be obtained at practice -- a trust and belief in one another that carries over onto the field.

"You have to be able to depend on the next guy," Georgia quarterback Joe Tereshinski III said. "If you're going to win a championship, you have to play your role, and you can't worry about what another person is doing. You have to trust that they're doing their job. When you build that trust and you work together during certain situations, that's how you win. By us going out and doing activities together, we start to build that trust."

The players aren't the only ones who benefit from the relationships built during the heat of the summer; the examples set by the older players also make the coaches' jobs that much easier when preseason practices begin.

"If you have a good core of upperclassmen, they can kind of reduce your workload once you get to practice in what they've taught the younger players," Texas Tech coach Mike Leach says.

No matter the activity, there are NCAA stipulations on what teams do together: The activities must be voluntary, they must be requested and initiated solely by the players, and players cannot report to coaches. So not only do the boys of summer have to be the brains behind what they do, but if they decide that participation is mandatory, they also shoulder the responsibility of policing themselves.

To find out what teams are doing this summer, we scoured the country and discovered some interesting rituals, from slip 'n' slide to softball to some hard-core sweat. Here is a sampling.