As football season slowly winds down I step back and remember the things I loved about playing and coaching. However, it’s what I learned along the way that will always stay with me. I consistently use many items on the drill grounds that were beat into me on the practice field during all those years of playing and coaching football. Taking the environment of practice we can methodically apply it to our training to develop a focused and effective crew when the stress is heavy.
Let us a take a deeper look and ask a question. If a football team was to always do walk through practices and never go full contact would they develop the physiological and psychological response matrix needed for game time situation. The answer is NO! During practice we must mimic the environment and physicality of the game that is played to allow our bodies and mind to create the tolerance needed to develop the understanding of what environment we will be operating in. In comparison, a team that engages in consistent contact during practice will physiologically and psychologically be able to respond better as their bodies are used to the contact and physicality of the environment. However, it is very unlikely they will have the complete foundational understanding of the sequence of steps needed to accomplish assignments/responsibilities when game time adjustments need to be made.
There actually needs to be a common blend of the two practices. By walking through responsibilities and adjustments we allow the body to move in the proper direction while the mind can absorb the reasons why. As the member begins to understand their responsibilities and their system of movements to accomplish the tasks we start adding the physicality. Doing this allows the brain to process what the muscles need to do and allows members to place their responses into action. Placing these actions into operation during ‘real speed’ actually will exploit deficiencies and allow one to identify what needs to be focused on during the next walk thru or in most cases what needs corrected on the spot. Everyone’s brain processes information differently, but by regularly operating in ‘real speed’ one will exploit the team and their own deficiencies. As the deficiencies are exploited and corrected the player and/or team becomes more effective and efficient.
Once we have mastered the walk thru elements mixed with the contact element we can begin to add the additional elements of stress. A great example of this is running the 2 minute offense or conducting goal line situations. During goal line drills we place the ball on the 5 yard line and the offense only needs 5 yards to score, but the defense is expected to stop them. This adds an element of stress that comes in the form of urgency. The offense has the pressure of scoring and the defense has the pressure of stopping the offense from going only a short distance. Just the placement of the ball creates a stress factor, but how can turn this stress up? We bring the team down to this small area of the field and we have them yelling and screaming to create some intensity to the environment. Then we turn on the speakers that explode out with crowd noise and marching band noise. We have just amplified the internal stressors and the environment actually becomes palpable. By doing this on a consistent basis we actually build a tolerance to this environment and we increase the focus of booth the offense and defense. This allows the players to react to the team across the ball from them more effectively and to be less affected by the environment at game time. The focus of these drills becomes extremely important when operating in this high stress environment.
I ask how often do you add stressors to your training? We must all conduct walk thru training to identify and understand the sequence of steps to perform a specific fire ground task. However, do you take it to the next level and go full contact? If you do, do you identify the deficiencies and exploit them in the sense of correcting them or do you just ‘note’ them. Do you take it a step further and conduct goal line drills? Do you add stressors to see if the crew identifies and then overcomes obstacles or reacts to the problems? Do you place your crew in the most realistic environments possible to allow them to build a tolerance to the stressor environment? If not you are failing them and do not be upset if they do not perform when it’s game time.
Plain and simple every training session doesn’t have to be a goal line drill, but every drill better not be a walk thru. We operate in an increased stress environment and if we do not build our tolerance to operate in stress induced environments do not expect continued success. Success will only come through failure on the training ground, thus failure on the fire ground will come as a result of not failing on the training ground.
So over the next few weeks we will look at ways to beef up your training to provide “Goal Line Training”. This will allow crews and company officers a resource to provide stressors during their training that can be reproduced fairly easy.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!