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The Steelheads get lesson in teamwork from Caldwell SWAT Team

Friday, November 6th
The Steelheads get lesson in teamwork from Caldwell SWAT Team

A hockey player can learn a lot about the game from drills in practice and classroom sessions in the film room, but there’s more to success on the ice than X’s and O’s. The intangibles that lead young men to success in all walks of life- leadership, teamwork, and commitment- among others, are often boosted away from the rink and out in the world.

And there are few more qualified to teach life lessons to a group of young men than the Special Weapons and Tactics team at the Caldwell Police Department.

Lieutenant Alan Seevers, Caldwell PD’s SWAT Team commander, invited the Steelheads and their coaching staff to the department’s training grounds on October 26th to undergo the training exercises used by some of Idaho’s most highly trained law enforcement officers.

“It was awesome. It was honestly a once in a lifetime experience for not just our players but our coaching staff,” said Head Coach Neil Graham. “The trust that they place in their teamwork, having each other’s backs in tough situations, was amazing to listen to and amazing to experience.  I feel very fortunate that we were able to go as a team and learn from them.”

All police work requires teamwork, but officers in SWAT are even more dependent on their team members due to the highly dangerous situations in which they are called to perform. For the Steelheads’ players and coaches alike, working with these elite officers offered a lesson in accountability, as well as a touch of perspective.

“The team aspect of the SWAT team is special,” said forward Colton Beck. “Just how each guy has each other’s back on the SWAT team, and if one man’s not doing his job it makes it a lot harder for the next guy. I think we can pick up a lot from that. If I’m not doing my job then my teammate needs to pick up my slack, and it’s going to be a tougher job for him.”

“We were talking to the officers. Obviously the stakes are different where if we have a rough night we’ll lose a game but if they have someone miss an assignment it becomes a life or death situation,” said Graham. “That we can learn from the pressure that they have, we thought we had a lot of pressure and that’s nothing. We can take a deep breath and enjoy what we do, and ultimately if we’re working as hard as we can and we want to learn and get better, we’re going to be very successful.”

The entire outing was an opportunity to take a deep breath and step away for the Steelheads. Of course players learn during these team-building events, but just as important is that the players have an opportunity to have some fun. The players had the opportunity to use police equipment, fire sniper rifles and other weapons, and work together in simulated police situations.

“I think we’re gelling really well but to have an activity where you can get away from the rink and not think about hockey for a little while is good,” said Beck. “Some guys had never seen a gun before, so seeing a guy shoot for the first time and experiencing different things is special. And when you can do that as a group it brings the boys closer.”

And even at a firing range, the competitive hockey spirit can break through, with players and coaches comparing targets and groupings. And beyond the fun, there were situational exercises that actually paralleled a player’s mindset on the ice pretty closely.

In one exercise, players entered a building as a team and encountered an “armed criminal”, and in an instant were forced to make critical decisions on how to respond, both with their own well-being and the safety of their teammates in mind. Though the stakes of course are different, it’s an interesting parallel to the split-second decisions that players are required to make on the ice.

“Those guys are trained in what they’re doing, even if it’s a different situation every time.  But it’s always read and react, a bit like us out on the ice,” said veteran forward Andrew Carroll. “We do these drills, we’re training at the rink and putting ourselves in situations, but then we get into a game and we’re in these situations that we’ve worked on and we know what we’re going to be facing.”

Graham always stresses how important it is for his team to build a strong relationship off the ice and in the community. The Steelheads are excited to celebrate the Armed Forces with Military Appreciation Night this weekend. Just as importantly, the day-trip to Caldwell allowed the players to build an important bond with just a handful of the brave men and women who protect them in the community every day.

“It was a great experience for my guys as well. There are a lot of parallels between the Steelheads as a team and my SWAT team,” said Lt. Seevers. “You have to earn the right to be on the team and to stay on the team. You need to train constantly to win and you need to depend on those guys that are out there on the ice or on that SWAT call with you. It was good for my guys to be around enthusiastic young athletes and we were all grateful that they were willing to come out and share some time with us.”

Without question, as Beck made clear, the team feels the same way.

“I would drop anything for the chance to go back and hang out with those guys!”

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