When Notre Dame kicks off their 2013 fall camp a week from tomorrow on August 5, the Irish will do so in Shiloh Park in Marion, Indiana for the first few days of camp before returning to Notre Dame’s LaBar Practice Fields on August 9.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is looking to build team unity in the early days of camp according to a release from the University last week. “”Training camp is vital in terms of developing team unity, character, camaraderie and ultimately a focused and specific identity for the upcoming season. We instituted a similar type off-site program for training camp at the University of Cincinnati and it played a huge role in the success of our team.”
Given the loss of some mainstays in the Notre Dame locker room over the last few years like Manti Te’o, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Theo Riddick, and Tyler Eifert, establishing new leadership and building this year’s team identity will be a huge focus for Kelly and his coaching staff.
“We’re still trying to find those leaders and this gives us another opportunity to build leadership to make sure that our kids understand that camaraderie, pulling together is why we’ve had success here,” said Kelly during an interview with und.com.
It sounds like Kelly and his staff have wanted to do this in year’s prior but some logistical problems prevented them from doing so.
“We wanted to make sure that even though we were going to go off-campus that had, first of all, a very good practice field. This is something we’ve been talking about for a couple years now. They put together two very good fields for us so we have that going for us. Accommodations, food service, and really some team building exercises there that we can spend some time with,” Kelly said of Shiloh Park. “All those pieces came together. We’re not going to be there a long time, but I think its going to be a really good period of time so we can team build with this group,” he added.
Notre Dame did something similar in 1995 and 1996 under Lou Holtz when the Irish started fall camp in Culver, Indiana. “Camp Culver” however had a slightly different goal. Holtz took his team to a no frills location to instill toughness in his teams. The move backfired though in 1995 with the Irish coming out of the gates flat and getting upset at home by Northwestern. The Wildcats turned in a magical season that year and may have up ended the Irish regardless, but Camp Culver was generally disliked by players and blamed for the sluggish start.
In 1996 the Irish opened on the road in rather lackluster fashioned against Vanderbilt. The Irish eventually won the game in rather unconvincing fashion but that poor performance also was blamed partly on Culver.
That doesn’t appear to be the case at all with Shiloh Park and it is apparent that Kelly and Notre Dame have gone to great lengths here in working with the staff at Shiloh to make sure that the accommodations will be well received by the players. For instance, there is a zip line and a rock climbing wall in Shiloh. I’ve never been to Camp Culver, but based on the players reactions at the time, something tells me such amenities were not available to them. Simple things like air conditioning in the dorms weren’t available either.