PITTSBURG - Kim Anderson doesn’t consider himself an early morning riser. Yet, on this particular Wednesday, the Pittsburg State University men’s basketball coach is standing at 5:45 a.m. outside of the university’s Student Recreation Center awaiting the arrival of two very important groups: his 2017-18 Gorilla basketball team and Pittsburg State’s Army ROTC Cadre.
The occasion? Sixty minutes of military-style physical training (PT).
“I’ve always felt that working out with other students on campus is good,” Anderson said. “It gives our guys a greater appreciation of what others are doing. What better group to work out with than the ROTC?”
A few moments pass before Anderson’s team, assistant coaches included, arrive after jogging from John Lance Arena.
A sea of cadets, clad in army green, arrive almost simultaneously. Conversation is limited but some good natured banter between the groups begins to take place before the doors open and the hard work begins.
The nearly 100 men and women are broken up into three squads and directed to different locations throughout the Rec Center. Kettle bell swings, battle ropes, fire team presses, and Gorilla pushups are just a few of the exercises facing these groups. It’s 60 minutes of intense physical training designed with one goal in mind.
“What we need is the warrior-athlete concept,” said Master Sgt. Kenneth Griffing. “So we look at strength through functionality. Getting that burst of power allows you to be able to operate in the battlefield. Every soldier, regardless of rank or what position they’re in, needs to be good at functional fitness.”
Pittsburg State’s Army ROTC, known as the Gorilla Battalion, enjoys a stellar reputation for developing some of the Army’s best officers. That level of success starts with the program’s leaders, but according to Lt. Col. Kenneth Hutchison the support of local partners helps the program maintain its prominence.
“In ROTC we’re not looking for everybody, we’re looking for the right people — people who want to be a part of something larger than themselves,” Hutchison said. “We get immense support from the Kansas Army National Guard and from Pittsburg State. Not every ROTC program can say they have the support and backing of their university, but we do. We’re embraced as an important entity, which is why we love working with the athletic department and other groups on campus.”
Lucas Wilson, a redshirt junior basketball player, is no stranger to exercise. But after finishing a 10-minute plank routine, he admits the ROTC workouts are a bit more intense than he anticipated.
“I see these guys in uniform all over campus, but I never realized they did all of this,” said Wilson. “We actually do a lot of similar exercises but this is another level. I have a whole new level of respect for these guys. It’s been a good work out and good experience for us.”
Kylie Dominick, ROTC cadet and biology pre-med major, also found herself enjoying PT just a bit more with the basketball team.
“I thought it was really awesome,” said Dominick. “It shows how friendly our campus is with each other and that, even though we’re in completely different sectors, we can work together.”
That level of respect and team bonding is exactly why Anderson first began asking to workout with the ROTC.
“I’ve done this type of program at three different schools,” said Anderson. “I’ve always been impressed with ROTC, and this one is exceptional. These young men and women are doing this (PT) three days a week at 6 a.m., in addition to going to class, and likely working a job. It’s impressive. It not only helps us with our conditioning, it helps us grow as a team.”
The early morning workout will end with a pegboard climb competition and race between the Gorilla Battalion and Gorilla basketball team. The winner? Well, if team building was the goal, both teams.
“The first day we did PT, I knew I’d definitely be at basketball games this year,” said Cadet Jordan Donaldson. “The fact that they would get up this early and work out with us showed the amount of respect they had for us. I’m going to show them that same respect by going to their games and supporting them.”
That type of bonding is exactly what Hutchison expects from these types of collaborations.
“Through functional fitness you get a lot of team building,” he said. “You have the opportunity within your ability to push each other and to encourage each other.”
The Pittsburg State University men’s basketball team will begin its season at home on Friday, Nov. 10 with the Minnesota State Mavericks in the MIAA/NSIC Conference Challenge. Tip-off is set for noon. Tickets are available at the Pittsburg State University ticket office within the Weede building on campus or at pittstate.edu/tickets.
Information about Pittsburg State’s Army ROTC program is available at pittstate.edu/department/military.