LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The sun isn’t even up yet and already a group of men are hard at work in downtown Little Rock.
They’re sweating, grunting and in a lot of pain. Three of the men are carrying a 250 pound log over their heads. Two others are holding 50-pound kettlebells. One in each hand. Others are hugging 40 pound sandbags or toting buckets full of water. The men are not allowed to drop any of them or place them on the ground. Every 100 or 200 yards they stop and rotate. Oh… and one other thing. They have to do this for an entire mile.
Some of the men are struggling, but they refuse to let their teammates down. So they fight the pain and march on. Their muscles are screaming, their hearts… pounding and sweat covers their faces. But this is only the beginning. Half way through this routine… on a random street corner… the men are ordered to do 100 burpees. Without hesitation… they place the logs, kettlebells, sandbags and water buckets down and jump right into it… counting off each burpee. After what seems like two hours… the men reach 100 and resume their duties with the odd weights… lugging them back to a warehouse in downtown Little Rock.
When the get inside there are high-fives and sighs of relief. One of the men however, who’s exhausted has his hands on his hips and appears to be struggling… not physically, but mentally. It seems as if he is questioning why he signed up for this or if he can actually finish what he started. His self-doubt shows on his face and his instructor notices.
So what does he do?
He orders the entire unit to do 25 more burpees. The men, including the one struggling, don’t moan or complain. Instead they form a circle and once again… spring into action and complete the task. Before they leave to go to their real jobs, they gather in a tight circle, place their hands together and one them yells, “Gentlemen, what is your profession?” In unison, they all respond with “Aroo, Aroo, Aroo.”
A few days later, the men come back for more. This time they’re handed blindfolds and told to walk hand in hand outside to a nearby dock. They are then told to do a plank…. for an entire hour. The men assume their positions and focus on the goal. But then out of nowhere, a hose appears and the men are sprayed down with cold water. They are also asked questions about their fellow brothers… personal questions. If the answer is wrong, a 45 pound weight is placed on their back. After 30 minutes passes, each of them have a weight on their back. Eventually — they reach the hour mark and are told to slowly stand up. They think its over. They’re wrong. The men are then told to immediately go into a sitting plank up against a brick wall. The next 20 minutes — hurt, but they make it.
Welcome to the “Man of School,” a 16-week intense program that focuses on a man’s mental, physical and emotional health.
Simply put, it’s the ultimate men’s group whose primary purpose is to to get men to drop the masks, unveil their past demons and discover their true purpose. The man behind it all is Cole Rodgers.
“Every man has a breaking point. It’s your job to find the point break. Am I pushing them too hard? Or… are they pushing themselves beyond a limit that they’ve placed on themselves?”
Rodgers stands about 5’7″ and is built like a rock. He’s a straightforward kind of guy and isn’t afraid to call your bluff.
“I’m a hard charging type of guy,” says Rodgers.
That might be an understatement. His drive and determination is contagious. It’s also helped him become a successful businessman.
“I focused on one thing and it was my business. I measured my life based upon how much I could produce. How much money I could make. I was driven off awards.”
But he soon realized something was missing from his life… especially in the inside. “
The entire time there was an inferno building up within me. I couldn’t even pass my own mirror test when I got out of the bathroom,” said Rodgers.
So he did something about it. In September of 2016, he enrolled for in the U.S. Navy Seal Hell Week for civilians in Coronado, California. A mind-boggling experience in which civilians are put through simulations just like the ones true Navy Seals do.
Out of the 30 people who enrolled for the 5-day event, only 9 graduated. Rodgers was one of them. But within seconds of finishing the brutal training, tragedy struck.
“I lost my swim buddy, Kurt. He died at my feet at the very end.” His wife was there and rushed over to help along with others, but it was too late.
The entire ordeal sent Rodgers into a downward spiral and forced him to reexamine his life, his goals… even his marriage.
“A lot of stuff had been building. The white lies, me covering up stuff in my relationship. Me focusing purely on business and being disconnected.”
Eventually he and his wife ended up going to a marriage counselor where he realized… he was all alone.
“She’s crying. I’m on the other end of the couch and I looked around and I didn’t have anybody really to turn to. To have conversations with. To help me troubleshoot. No other man to do life with.”
It was turning point in his life. So acting on a whim… he started mentoring a friend of his. What he didn’t realize at the time was that his friend was also mentoring and helping him. Eventually other men joined them. The conversations covered all aspects of life and focused on topics most men wouldn’t even consider talking about.
“I didn’t want to sit around and us NOT talk about… man have you ever thought about committing suicide? Have you ever thought about that? What about your marriage? Are you struggling with pornography? Right? What about addiction?”
It was life changing for Rodgers and the others. And eventually the idea of sharing their experiences, hope and strength with other men came to life. And so did the School of Man.
“These were 10 guys, including myself that were willing to change the game… willing to be the men that they were created to be. Be emotionally open, be vulnerable, a higher standard of man in their life and not apologize for it. So you train like a warrior in mind, body and spirit and that’s exactly where we began. And they all just started coming.”
Toddy Pettyjohn is one of them. A 53-year old man who has the body of a 25 year old Crossfit guru. Looking for something challenging he came across the “School of Man” and didn’t hesitate signing up for the program.
Tomorrow on FOX16 News at 9, hear his incredible journey. And learn more about the emotional and mental side of this program that Pettyjohn says is more challenging and rewarding then all the hour long planks or 200 burpees.
For more information on the School of Man click here.