Players at the North East’s top rugby league club faced four seasons in one day when they undertook a unique team bonding challenge – with the support of Tyne Coast College (TCC).
Newcastle Thunder’s first team squad took the plunge into a state-of-the-art environmental pool at TCC’s Marine and Offshore Safety Training Centre (MOST) in South Shields.
They battled crashing waves, rain and had their senses tested by crunching storm sound effects for the tough three-hour session on Friday, November 5.
MOST is a major UK offshore training venue where Merchant Navy mariners and oil rig and wind farm workers learn key survival skills for emergency scenarios at sea.
But it is also open to companies and businesses which want to test the mettle of their staff through a fun-filled but gruelling team building experience.
Players at the Betfred Championship side accessed the facility via the club’s sponsorship with Tyne Metropolitan College (TyneMet) in North Tyneside, also part of Tyne Coast College.
The partnership involves an academy programme in which 16 to 19-year-olds improve their playing while studying an academic sports programme.
During the session, the players donned t-shirts and shorts to test their endurance levels by treading water in the 4m-deep survival training environmental pool.
And their one-on-one and group communication skills were pushed to the limits when a variable wave pattern generator turned calm waters into a rough sea environment.
Amid ultra-realistic light and sound effects – as well as driving rain - they also fought hard to clamber aboard life rafts, helping pull each other to safety.
Further supporting team building, they were split into teams, racing each other in life rafts across the choppy waters.
Jordan Robinson, Newcastle Thunder’s General Manager, said: “We wanted to take the players out of their comfort zones and test them in a totally different way.
“There can be few more different or challenging environments to a rugby pitch than MOST’s incredible environmental pool.
“On the pitch they know their roles and have developed great understanding of what makes them and their colleagues tick.
“But as a club striving for ever greater success, we want them to consistently push themselves to be better individually and as a team.
“This pool session was a terrific way for them to work as a team, challenge themselves on a personal level, and to come up smiling and know they had undertaken and achieved something new.
“It was incredibly challenging for them but it was also great fun, you could feel the adrenalin kick in once they got over the shock of the challenge.
“We have a fantastic relationship with Tyne Metropolitan College and I would recommend MOST’s facilities to any organisation.”
Michael Speers, Head of School at MOST, said the centre’s facilities provided a test of any individual’s fitness and mental stamina.
But he added: “A session here is exhilarating and tremendous fun. It’s a great place for any group of people to show how well they can bond and work together.
“Some people think it will be quite easy, but most change their minds when we switch to wave, wind and rain mode.
“All credit to the Newcastle Thunder’s players. They really got stuck in and rose to the challenge.
“They are physically fit young men but you could see this change of environment away from the pitch was testing for them.
“The feedback has been very positive and I know they will have learnt a lot about themselves individually and as a group.”
Since 2016, Newcastle Thunder and TyneMet’s partnership has seen dozens of students embarked on the NCFE Level Three Extended Diploma in Sport (Performance & Excellence) course.
Students gain top-level academic and sporting opportunities in a programme based at Kingston Park Stadium, the home of Thunder and Newcastle Falcons rugby union team.
They complete the NCFE sports programme either as part of the Thunder Super League Academy or the Falcons RU College Programme.
Those learning in combination with Thunder compete in the highest-level RFL Academy competition against teams including Wigan, Leeds Rhinos, Hull FC and St Helens.
Participants train up to four times a week, and benefit from full physio, strength and conditioning and analysis support – with home matches played at Kingston Park Stadium.
The programme gives learners the skills, knowledge and understanding of rugby and the physical fitness industry.
They are coached by experts, gain media-training experience, benefit from post-match analysis and have access to a full-time physio.
Course topics include sports coaching, fitness testing, anatomy and physiology, nutrition and sports psychology.
The qualification also provides access to numerous jobs in the sports sector – and for some a professional playing career.
Team bonding sessions at MOST, in Wapping Street, can be booked by visiting https://www.stc.ac.uk/marine
Information on the rugby programme is available by emailing Ben Pollock at email@example.com