By Joe Ilardi
For Unwind magazine
With 2017 looming, the holiday season is upon us here at the University of Maryland, and while certain teams must keep competing through the winter recess, others get to kick back with some eggnog. We all know our beloved athletes work their shells all year round, but how do they find ways to celebrate the holiday season?
On my quest to find the whackiest sports holiday tradition, I came across one that seemed particularly festive, yet competitive (as one might expect from Division I athletes).
Maryland’s varsity baseball team found a way to combine holiday cheer with grueling and dicey rivalry. The festivities, if they can really be called festivities, begin the Monday after Thanksgiving. What follows is a weeklong fitness and strength competition called “The Iron Terp Challenge” by coaches, and lovingly referred to by some players as “hell week.”
Competitions include sled pushes, “the Murph” (a 1-mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, and 300 squats followed by another 1-mile run), and even a diving competition to cap off the week.
And just in case a week of punishing physical activity wasn’t enough to get the boys in the holiday spirit, there’s more! Less exhausting, yes. Less competitive, no.
Saturday evening after Iron Terp Challenge week, the team meets at Coach Rob Vaughn’s house in Annapolis for a team meal- including 15 pounds of ground beef and tacos – and then a gift exchange. However, this gift exchange is not your typical light-hearted exchange; it is as competitive as if the players were on the diamond.
The rules are simple. Roll the dice and if you roll doubles, you pick a gift. If you don’t get a gift, well, tough luck.
Throughout the game Coach Rob can be heard yelling “Winners win!” speaking to the fiercely competitive nature of his team.
After all the gifts were taken from the table, a second round commenced. Except rolling doubles now means you can steal another player’s gift. And boy, were the players in for a surprise this year.
Barrett Smith, a freshman first baseman, returned to his dorm with the popular handheld button-pressing game “Simon.” Other big winners included junior outfielder Zach Jancarski, who went home victorious with a rubber door-stop. A variety of other comedic and seldom-useful gifts were stolen and passed around, and the night was capped off with a team picture.
Whether the team’s smiles were the result of the Iron Terp Challenge being over, or the result of receiving a door-stop, one thing is clear: the baseball team is ready for the holidays.