Bowling builds team unity


Rick Braun

Bowling builds team unity


Thursday, June 12, 2003

Green Bay — Three years ago, Mike Sherman was able to spring a surprise outing on his players during minicamp.

He took them bowling.

But after adding a paintball outing in minicamp 2001 and a golf outing in 2002, the element of surprise was not going to be a factor.

And Sherman may have been running out of recreational athletic events in which to involve his players.

Sherman swears by the annual events as a chemistry-building exercise.

So even though the Packers had Friday, June 6, set aside on their minicamp schedule as a “team function” day, Sherman still felt the need for some element of surprise.

And the surprise came when Sherman had the teams board buses two days ahead of the expected schedule.

When players appeared last Wednesday for their pre-practice 9 a.m. meeting, Sherman directed them to board three buses that headed over to Ashwaubenon Bowling Lanes.

“It’s just to break up our minicamp,” Sherman said. “It’s a seven- day process and it gives them a chance to get together and know each other.

“We had a great draft this morning for this event and they’re now getting together out here and laughing it up and having a good time. We’re just trying to develop some chemistry on our football team and there’s no better way to do it than America’s favorite pastime of bowling.”

Another bonus for the players came when there were no post- bowling meetings. Once they got back to Lambeau Field, they were free to go. It was, basically, an off-day in which about three hours were spent getting to know each other just a little better.

Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera swears by the exercise, too.

“This is huge because every year you have a bunch of the old guys with some of the young guys, new rookies,” Rivera said, referring to the teams. “No one really knows each other. We see ’em in practice, but we don’t know their names or we do know their names but really don’t know who these guys are.

“So coach brings us down here and we bowl and you see some of the younger guys with the older guys and they’re cheering and high- fiving and we get to know them and they get to know us. And that helps the group, and come camp in July, we know them and they’re part of the team and they feel comfortable with us, we feel comfortable with them and it kind of helps.”

It would be hard to argue with Sherman’s track record. His season records of 9-7, 12-4 and 12-4 are a testament to good chemistry.

When he took over the Packers after the 1999 season in which Ray Rhodes’ squad went 8-8, the Packers were considered by many of the NFL pundits to be a team in decline. Going into last season, they were considered one of the favorites for the Super Bowl.

They probably won’t be a favorite heading into the 2003 season, but they’ll be a strong favorite to win the NFC North and should compete for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

And a great deal of that goes back to chemistry.

And even if chemistry didn’t thrive because of outings such as the bowling excursion, the laughs it provides are worth the day off practice.

Certainly the players were having some laughs at the expense of offensive line coach Larry Beightol.

“I saw him one time bring the ball back like you see on Barney Rubble and the ball dropped behind him,” safety Darren Sharper said. “And he almost fell onto the lane and slid down by himself. I saw him a couple of times and he was pretty bad.

“Beck’s always going to do something crazy to make you laugh, but I think bowling was probably pretty hard on him. To get that ball around that big waist of his is kind of a tough thing to do and I don’t think he did a good job.”

Rivera saw pretty much the same thing.

“All I know is I looked over one time and Larry Beightol was winding up and threw his hand back and the ball went the other way,” Rivera said. “He almost killed some of the guys (behind him), so he’s dangerous.”

One of the better performers was undrafted rookie Shantee Orr, a linebacker out of Michigan.

Orr was a first-round pick of captain Bryant Westbrook. And he’s into bowling.

“My roommate (Eric Powell) was teasing me earlier in the week because I was watching the women’s bowling championship (The Professional Women’s Bowlers Association’s U.S. Open) earlier in the week,” Orr said. “They were teasing me.

“But you should be good in everything as an all-around athlete in every sport. Going to a big university helps you diversify yourself and helps you play different games. I never played golf before I got to college, but it grows on you fast and you begin to love it.”

But the bottom line is it’s an exercise in team.

“The thing about coming out here is guys don’t really get a chance to talk to one another outside the locker room and the playing field and you kind of get to know guys a little better and you get to kid with them and joke around with them,” Sharper said. “It’s a lot of fun and it’s good.

“A lot of people might be happy that we got out of practice and that might be the main reason they look forward to doing this. But I think after today there’ll be a lot more closer relationships with one another on the team.”

And that’s the point after all.

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