Home » Education » Lake Zurich High School Lacrosse Teams Meet the Thrive Challenge to Become Tomorrow’s Leaders
Members of Lake Zurich High School’s boys and girls lacrosse teams participated in a unique team building and leadership training. The program, conducted by local military personnel and Navy SEALs, challenged players to become better leaders.

Thrive Project for America, a nonprofit organization based in Antioch, conducted the four-hour program using both physical challenges and classroom instruction. Thrive is dedicated to bringing education and leadership training to the youth of America and developing confident and competent young adults by using Navy SEAL training in a fun, engaging, and results-oriented format.

Thrive President, Michael Keppen serves as the Director of Training for Naval Service Training Command at Great Lakes and manages the naval curriculum and talent management strategies at Recruit Training Command, Officer Training Command and the 152 Naval Reserve Officer Training Commands (ROTC) around the country. He logged more than 1,000 flight hours and 36 combat flights in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During the physical training, players competed in a modified SEAL challenge involving pushups, sit ups and a 1.5 mile run as well as demanding team relays. Thrive trainers know that owning the mental piece (percentage of effort) before activities, will ultimately enable all students to perform at their peak capacity.

Trainer Steve Childress, a retired Navy SEAL, said, “The emphasis for our training is concentrated around each student controlling their performance, and ultimately their future, through choice. There’s no such thing as a free lunch so if the student wants more of an output (better grades, faster run times…), he/she will realize that an increased input is the only way to get to where they want to be.”

Taylor Lores, a senior on the Girls Varsity explained that the concepts of commitment and focus applies to being a student as well as an athlete. Lores said, “It’s like when we don’t focus on and fully commit to a homework assignment, we waste a lot of time and energy. If we just focus 100% on the task at hand, we’ll get it done in a lot less time and have a better outcome.”

Physical challenges are used during training because intense physical activity is one of the most efficient and effective mediums for breaking through self-imposed mental barriers and developing the resilience to handle the most challenging events in life. Thrive’s Director of Training Steve Drum, said, “We want these kids to have an Apex Predator mindset. That is a dramatic way of describing intense focus, unswerving commitment, and the ability to push through high levels of discomfort. Gaining this will set them above their peers and prepare them for life’s most demanding situations.”

Senior defenseman Joey Lindstrom experienced the break through Drum described when he came to a point in the 1.5 mile run where he wanted to slow down and even stop running. He described how he was able to push through his discomfort because,” I knew from the training that it was my mind not my body talking. I knew how I finished was under my control and so was my time.”

“None of us knew exactly what to expect going into the training; all we knew was that we had the opportunity to expose our athletes and coaches to some of the most elite trainers in the world.” said Jim Vaselopulos, who is the president of the Lake Zurich Lacrosse Club, which runs the high school teams and the city’s youth programs. “Now that we have experienced the training, I think we can safely say it exceeded our wildest expectations. The experience was fun, challenging and enlightening.”

To ensure that the training becomes an integral part of the lacrosse program all Lake Zurich High School coaches, including Kyle Burke and Megan Pender, the boys and girls varsity coaches, respectively, participated in the event Vaselopulos said.

Thrive’s mission is to encourage, guide and develop youth to reach their full potential through developing their character, self-esteem and mindset. The power of the training is that it’s really just the start of the growth process. “We planted the seed for each student’s future growth and now, through choice, each student will hopefully nurture the things that are important to each of them and choose to put forth the effort to achieve their dreams,” said Childress.

“We are very fortunate to live in the greatest country in the world and with many conveniences and freedoms we frequently take for granted,” said Vaselopulos. “Today we were led by those that protect those freedoms for us and we all learned how they use very straightforward principles to drive elite performance. Armed with this knowledge, our athletes have everything they need to find individual success and, perhaps, decide to lead their peers and influence future generations.”

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