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England Senior Mixed Squad head off on their Annual Boot Camp Fun!

England Senior Mixed Squad head off on their Annual Boot Camp Fun!

As is tradition with the SMX, Coach Wright's annual bootcamp weekend came round again.

After a close location vote, Gloucester just pipped Lands End 20:1.

9.30 meet at the (Non Church) Church, steeped in 'interesting' historical facts, training commenced with Byron's warm up.

Being... ahem... Seniors, and therefore wanting desperately to avoid the 'square of pain' fitness grid, the squad worked hard to shake the travel out of their limbs and keep the intensity and the focus high as they moved into technique drills and driving practice for the first part of the morning.

After a spot of lunch where the team admired the glorious Gloucestershire scenery and the prospect of Martin's infamous team building activities were looming the team moved on to some tap off and transition plays.

Good handling in the final session meant only one visit to the square of pain and was dealt with by all thanks to their GSOH.

The real activities and challenges were soon to begin. Once separated into two teams, the first task was to find Martin's house; it was a mere speck on the hill but make our way we did.

After checking into Wright Hotel and going through a detailed check list of the items we were asked to bring, we were then split into two teams for the evening activities/competition. First task was to select a suitable team name. Chops v 'Cambridge University Netball Team' for the Task 2 pull ups

Grace 'The Face' set the standard early and the running was generally close between the two teams, although Mike Roa could have potentially managed a few more had he not wasted energy pacing up and down muttering 'two tickets to the gun show' before his turn. With both teams now inked up in full cammo gear it was time to go and investigate the woods.

As Coach Wright disappeared into the woods with a carton of flour to mark the route, the team paired up for a staggered start run (aka scramble/mountaineer - note to self: bring ice axe to next bootcamp), then it was off to the finish line for Rich, Luke and Sacha to see who popped up out of the foliage first.

So, at the end of the run / climb / mountaineering expedition (depending on who had just crossed the self-raising finishing line), the competitors began to congratulate each other on their fine selection of footwear and wonder who we were about to see next.

One by one the runners emerged between the trees every few minutes, until the last man was accounted for. But wait...was that everybody? Not at all. The last men (Ollie/Byron) to start were definitely not the last to finish...others continued to stumble over the line after them... except a long gap indicated trouble and 2 ladies had failed to show. As losing people in woods at night isn't an accepted method of squad selection, the last men stepped up for search and rescue op and headed back into the trees.

A wrong turn 20 metres into the run spelt trouble for Laura and Mel and they were quickly overtaken by everyone. They quickly tapped into survival techniques and, using some flour they found on the ground, we were able to make a quick carbo loading shake for energy. It took a while to realise they’d also just consumed the directions to the finish line. Fortunately Sillsy and Gadget were there for the rescue, pushing the girls’ glutes to the finish line.

The weary squad re-untied again and armed with axes, old tyres, goggles (no not the ice bath and hot tub type Cropper), and special gloves in hand, they rambled together down the winding woodland paths until eventually arriving at a clearing where an old camp fire marked the location of the next challenge.

First up was to ensure we had all the fundamentals for survival. Water, shelter, fire and food.

The teams quickly got to work building their camouflaged huts and campfires.

Swiftly followed by the wood chopping challenge, where Roa came into his own, as he smashed through the felled tree like a morning WOD.

After Roa stopped putting the rest of us to shame and put away his huge chopper (finally!) it was time to take stock of the scores. CHOPS were in the lead, but who knew by how much... or what else was in store...?!

Finally after rubbing wood together Byron and Shaun managed to start a fire using the matches provided. After brewing up and kicking back in our new wood cabins for 5 minutes we set out to play stuck in the mud in the setting of The Blair Witch Project. Mel couldn't help herself getting caught up in the moment squealing with fear every step she took.

As darkness set in and the temperatures dropped, the teams had their final challenge to make it back to the trig point as fast as they could, again to secure points for their teams by finishing in respectable positions. Girls starting first, Gladiator Kang led the girls home and the stride of Gadget’s legs meant he soon closed the gap on the girls and was pushing hard to the finish line.

A tiny glow of a light led the teams down the steep hill and back to the comfort of Hotel Wright as they looked forward to their evening barbecue and shenanigans, with a cosy huddle to watch the International Rugby before bedding down for the night. The scores were revealed with a win for the CHOPS that the Cambridge University Netball Team just hadn't been able to close all day!

The house fell silent and the team drifted in and out of their sleep in anticipation of Coach Wright's military style wake up calls at daft-o-clock whilst holding tightly on to their cuddly toys that had been rescued from other kit list items crammed tightly in to rucksacks.

But as the hours rolled by and the sun came up, it became evident that Martin had decided that a sleep deprived squad would be useless to him and so a gentle and mild early morning stroll back up the hill to the trig point to admire the view that was obscured by last night’s darkness, was more appealing and would heighten an appetite for a cooked breakfast before heading off to train again.

In true boot-camp fashion, the weekend proved to be a great experience, giving players the opportunity to embrace their challenges and form bonded relationships to last a life time.

The squad is now ready to take their next steps along the #RoadToJersey and face the challenge the tournament will hold as they take on their Euros Campaign.

We are England Touch

We are the players. We are the supporters, willing us on. We are the medals, waiting to be won. We are the touchdowns, waiting to be scored. We are the men and women of all ages. We are the talent of today. We are the potential for tomorrow. We are one team. We are England Touch