DES MOINES, Ia. -- The North High School Polar Bears football team of Des Moines, Iowa, hosted a Football Leadership Camp at Grubb Stadium, Aug. 18.
Marines from Recruiting Station Des Moines facilitated the camp alongside head coach, Sean Quinlan, a former active-duty Marine major.
“The [Marines] did a tremendous job challenging my young players,” said Quinlan. “The challenge we had today will definitely benefit us on the football field this year and down the road when we face adversity, being able to dig down.”
Recruiting Station Des Moines partnered with the Polar Bears to share the Marine Corps core values of honor, courage and commitment in an environment promoting academic and athletic excellence.
“Today, we came out and worked with the football team,” said Staff Sgt. Michael T. Huck, a recruiter at Recruiting Sub Station West Omaha. “We created chaos while at the same time instilling leadership, teamwork and building camaraderie.”
The day consisted of three different events: push-ups; pull-ups; lunges; 400-pound tire flips; low crawls; and simulated ammunition resupply runs from one end zone to the other.
“We create something that’s very simple into something very complex, very chaotic and very stressful,” explained Huck. “These events get them to understand each other’s strength and weaknesses. We’re starting to build that leadership and camaraderie.”
The Marines host these camps to challenge the players by creating friction, stress and disorder while at the same time instilling discipline, endurance and teamwork they can utilize throughout their football season.
“They have to rely on each other to get [the exercises] done and to ultimately, at the end of the day, be a winner,” explained Huck.
Win or lose, the players left it all on the field and took away more than just a good workout.
“The best lesson I learned today was that working as a team is better than working on your own,” said William Roger Griffith, a senior at North High School. “If everybody does their part then we’re able to come together as a team and accomplish the mission.”
So what brings the Marine Corps to North High School?
Quinlan, a retired major who served for 27 years, began working for the high school in 2014.
“The hallmark of the Marine Corps to me is camaraderie and esprit de corps so having the opportunity to coach and lead young men is amazing,” said Quinlan. “Although, there is a different situation here at North High School…”
According to a U.S. News article, North High School has a roughly 1,300 student population and, of those students, over 80% are economically disadvantaged. Economically disadvantaged means that students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, based on data reported to the government. North High School is one of the poorest schools in the state of Iowa.
“Most of my young men don’t have two parents in their home so it’s extra special to me to be able to lead, teach and inspire young men to hopefully make them better fathers and better husbands that contribute to society in a positive way down the road,” Quinlan said.
Quinlan said he knows what the Corps has to offer and the direction and discipline it provides. He’s excited for what that experience will bring to young men and women beginning their journey in the military.
In the past year, six students out of North High School enlisted in the Marines Corps.
“I look at where I’m at in my life and I’m on that curb clapping as these young men and women join our armed forces, because the minute they stop signing up to be Marines or soldiers or airmen, you won’t know our country,” said Quinlan, paraphrasing a quote from an early 20th century actor. “When I see these men and women write a blank check to America for four years, for their life and service, it makes my heart beam. It reinforces my faith that there’s a generation out there that wants to continue to follow what the previous generations laid out and they’re willing to take it to the next level.”
Griffith, a football player for the Polar Bears, is one of six high school students that recently enlisted in the Marine Corps.
“I was motivated to enlist in the Marines, because of their brotherhood, kind of like football,” he said. “I feel pretty confident physically, mentally and emotionally that I’m going to earn the title of Marine.”
Griffith is set to ship to boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in California, June 12, 2017.
Annually, more than 17,000 males recruited from the Western Recruiting Region are trained at MCRD San Diego.
“When we come to these football camps, we talk nothing about recruiting or enlisting in the military,” said Huck. “We’re strictly here for football; we’re strictly down to business. A lot of the times we like to consider ourselves mentors rather than just a recruiter trying to get someone to sign the line. We care about how they’re doing in football and how they’re doing in school, building a relationship and getting to know them a little better.”
The North High School Polar Bears kick off their football season Friday against Waterloo East High School.
“I thank the Marines, because this is what my players and coaches needed as we try and embark upon what I call a season to remember,” Quinlan said confidently.