FIRST, a Bear Grylls ‘boot camp’, followed by boxing sessions and now a Ninja Warriors obstacle course.
Do not let it be said that Yorkshire clubs have not been ingenious in their quest to take players out of their comfort zones in order to build trust and problem-solving capabilities – all vital prerequisites in any successful season.
The latest ‘outside-the-box’ thinking saw Barnsley head coach Daniel Stendel and his staff organise a team bonding exercise at a ‘Ninja’ camp earlier this week in Manchester.
Another ‘change of scenery’ was famously utilised with success by Stendel’s compatriot David Wagner at Huddersfield Town in the summer of 2016 when Terriers players were famously stripped bare of all perceived essentials on a remote Swedish island and ‘roughed it’ by sleeping in tents for four nights.
In that same close-season, Sheffield United’s players displayed their pugilistic tendencies during sessions at the English Institute of Sport in the city.
Both those White Rose sides went on to clinch promotion in epic 2016-17 campaigns and Barnsley will be hoping that their own methodology plays its own unique part in a similar outcome next Spring.
Lots of players had pains in their arms, but that is ok. It was a good idea. It can help us with team spirit to win games and we will try on Saturday.Daniel Stendel
Former Hannover 96 coach Stendel said: “We had fun together and now we are all Ninjas!
“It is important that, as a team, we had fun together. When you have adventures together, the main part is that you come closer together.
“Lots of players had pains in their arms, but that is ok. It was a good idea. It can help us with team spirit to win games and we will try on Saturday.
“It was not easy for me. But for most players it was and Christopher (Stern – first-team coach).”
After an impressive start to the League One campaign, the Reds have seen momentum dip slightly by virtue of a haul of just one point from their last two matches.
Last weekend’s loss at Coventry ended the club’s unbeaten start the league the season, with Stendel critical of his side’s performance levels – for perhaps the first time this term.
The Reds chief pinpointed a lack of decision-making and game management in the defeat in the Midlands, with his side’s midweek bonding exercise perhaps being timely.
On the value of such exercises to the well-being of the squad, the former Hannover 96 coach, whose side welcome Burton tomorrow, added: “I think it is more important than in Germany because we have a lot of games and training and it is important we have experience outside from training and the stadium.
“We must see that we have affection.
“It helps the team relax from all the days we are together with football.
“It is a chance for the players to try different exercises and it is like situations when they are on the pitch and things are not easy. They must find solutions.”
Unfortunately, the Reds have yet to find a positive solution regarding the fitness of Cauley Woodrow, whose debut has been put on hold due to a troublesome muscle injury.
It is likely to be a couple of weeks until the deadline-day signing – brought in as a like-for-like replacement for Tom Bradshaw – will be ready for his bow.
But Stendel is backing Woodrow to remain mentally strong following a challenging start to his Oakwell career.
The former Fulham player, whose last competitive appearance was in mid-February during a loan spell at Bristol City, will now concentrate on working on his rehabilitation for the rest of this month after picking up the problem in his first training session.
Stendel, who confirmed that this weekend’s game is also likely to come too early for midfielder Brad Potts, said: “It is very hard for him (Woodrow).
“I have talked with him because he was never (previously) injured with a muscle injury.
“But I think he will be strong enough with his mentality when he comes back.
“When he plays for the first time for Barnsley, I think he can show what he can do,” explained Stendel.
“At the moment, we are disappointed, but in the end, we will be happy that he is here.
“He is a good guy and when I talk to him, I get a very good impression from him.
“He played only one training (session) with us and we can see he will be a very good player for us and will help us in the rest of the season.”
Ryan Hedges and Zeki Fryers, yet to feature so far this season, are in the Reds’ squad for this weekend’s game, although their lack of game-time means that it is unlikely they will start against the Brewers.
“They can play, but both players were not in training for eight weeks, so I think it is not the best idea to play them in the starting 11,” added Stendel.
“But both players can improve (the team) and maybe I use them as substitutes.”