As we wrap up our two weeks of training camp and prepare for our game condition scrimmage this weekend, I reflect on training camps in my past and how they differ from today. The days of double and triple sessions are over. Drills like “Bull in the Ring,” “Oklahoma.” And “Blood or Bone,” are no longer on our practice schedules. Practices never end with conditioning.
We now incorporate a five day acclimatization period that does not have us doing two practices in the same day until day three and we never do double sessions on consecutive days. We do not put on full pads until day 4 and never wear full pads in both practices of a double session day. Although getting accustomed to our pads is important, it does not allow us to practice as fast as we want.
With so much emphasis on player safety and concussions, we have removed any drills that have full contact collisions at any position other than Offensive and Defensive Line, and we never do live tackling in practice drills or from scrimmage. Rather we focus on technique, leverage, and emphasize decision making.
We get all the conditioning we need with our defensive pursuit, fast-paced offensive, and special teams coverage drills. We log a lot of miles at a fast pace, but we will never waste time having all of our players run across the field in a linear fashion just to “get them in shape,” or to “toughen them up.” Every minute of practice is critical, and every minute is scheduled with football-related drills enabling both fundamentals AND the conditioning required for success.
I remember lining up in high school while a coached donned a black executioner’s mask to commence what felt like hours of physical (and in many ways mental) conditioning… Given prevailing philosophies at the time, I can understand the rationale, but as football has evolved, I’m confident we have a better way…
Instead of ending practices with demoralizing conditioning drills that do not translate well to playing the game of football, we end practices with a game that is fun, builds teamwork, fosters interdependence, and stresses communication. These games also incorporate logging miles at a fast pace in a variety of movement patterns. The best part is that the players work harder and run faster than they ever would lining up and waiting for a whistle to send them across the field and back. I shudder at the distant echo of “Don’t hate me, hate the whistle” (just prior to the next sprint) and instead enjoy the competitive spirit and camaraderie of teammates coming together to meet a challenge while putting forth their best efforts.
One note about last week’s blog commemorating 40 years of team building and friendship… A colleague commented on the image of a team of individuals extending hands to climb a mountain, noting that at varying times each of us fulfilled many of the rolls conveyed in the image; sometimes helping, sometimes being helped, or even just supporting. Recognizing the opportunity and taking the action makes all the difference. The hero and the coward feel the same thing… the differentiator lies in the decisions and actions that follow in spite of those feelings.
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Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at firstname.lastname@example.org and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!