Thursday, June 20, 2013
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; Wed, October, 15, 2008. Players Mike Weber and Paul Baier help their coach Kevin Dineen over the "Wall" as the Portland Pirates hockey team participate at the Action Learning Center in Freeport.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; Wed, October, 15, 2008. Chris Butler (bottom) holds Colin Murphy during the "Bird on a perch" exercise as the Portland Pirates hockey team participate at the Action Learning Center in Freeport.
FREEPORT — The Portland Pirates did something different Wednesday afternoon.
While playing Bird on a Perch, the players climbed on each other's backs.
Then they each passed through The Spider's Web or helped each other scale The Wall.
The Pirates spent the afternoon at the University of Southern Maine's Action Learning Center on Wolfe's Neck participating in activities designed to enhance problem solving and team bonding.
It was quite a departure from what the players have been doing on the ice together since the Buffalo Sabres, the Pirates' new NHL parent, opened training camp more than six weeks ago.
''We have had a few get-togethers, but today you got to know the guys better off the ice,'' said forward Mathieu Darche. ''If you get to know them off the ice, you know them better on the ice.''
''We did some silly things,'' said forward Tyler Bouck. ''But it's things that will eventually really help us.''
The various challenges faced during the three-hour session required the players to work as a team.
''We learned about communication,'' Bouck said. ''How to stick together and what it takes to work together. We did that, and hopefully it will help us build from there.''
At The Action Learning Center, started by USM about 15 years ago, groups learn the value of working together to reach a common goal.
''Sometimes, we have groups who haven't been together for very long and they're learning to work as a team,'' said Laura O'Neill, the center's director. ''Other times they are groups that have worked together for a long time and they want to work on specific issues.''
The facility, located on 70 acres of woods and fields, is not limited to use by athletic teams.
''We have a wide range of groups who go though the course,'' O'Neill said. ''We have corporate groups, school groups, social service agencies, summer camps.''
The facility does have a physically demanding ropes course, but the Pirates participated in low-ground activities designed to encourage team building.
''Our instructors were so good here today and really had a good feel for what we were trying to accomplish,'' said Coach Kevin Dineen.
''Not only to come out and use our brains but to do a little team building. I walk away really feeling good about it.''
In Tank Driver, the players were divided into two-man teams. With one player (the tank) blindfolded, his partner (the driver) gave him directions so he could fire little plastic balls at the other ''tanks.''
First, the drivers were allowed to guide their partners by touching them with their hands. Then, the verbal directions could be given. Finally, no touching or talking was allowed, and each pair had to find other ways to communicate.
''These guys tend to embrace the physical aspects of the exercises a little more than most other groups,'' said Eric Topper, facilitator for the training session.
''It was really easy to get them loose and get them climbing on each other, but it was really neat to see them embrace the cerebral stuff. They are definitely smart folks.''
The lessons learned from the various activities were not lost on the players.
''You see how different guys interact in different situations, and it helps us work together,'' Bouck said.
''We did a lot of different challenges, and it shows that you have to think things through,'' Darche said.
''There's always a solution to everything.''
Darche was impressed with how his teammates responded to the problems they faced during the training session.
''Everybody wanted to accomplish a challenge,'' he said. ''We weren't being evaluated on anything, but you could see the guys always wanted to succeed. It's nice to see the guys enjoy achieving something.''
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:
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John Patriquin/Staff Photographer; Wed, October, 15, 2008. Team mates pass Nathan Gerbe through the "Spiders Web" to Mark Mancari and Mathieu Darche as the Portland Pirates hockey team participate at the Action Learning Center in Freeport.