It’s that time of year again, training camps for the 2014 season are starting up for all teams within the next week. The off-season is ending and coaching staffs will now be able to see the work that players put in over the last few months. Training camp is exactly how it sounds, it is the time to get serious and really focus on the playbooks and making that team chemistry. In the months leading up to the start of camp, that is when the real work is done. For me, I always began my pre-season workouts the first week of March so that by the time camp came around, I was physically and mentally ready to go. My mind was clear and I made sure my family was fine so I could really work. They knew that for the next 4-5 weeks, I was training, I was about football, and they had to hold the front down.
The healthiest a football player will ever be in a season is his first day of training camp. The offseason is the time to get healthy and get fit for the regular season. Players should not show up to camp out of shape, the time to make those changes is in the off-season. The trick to a successful season is to get in to camp healthy and stay that way through the end, which ultimately leads to a healthy season.
Going to training camp for a rookie is a lot like going to college for your first year. The only difference is that in college, you are guaranteed at least one year of play once you sign up, whereas in the NFL, teams do not have to keep their rookies if they do not make the cut. If players do not perform well, the team will find someone else that will. The way I looked at it was that someone as trying to take food off of my grandmother’s table or money from my family. It’s all about competition; it drives you through the offseason.
Training camp these days is a lot different from when I played the game. Now a days, it seems that there is 24 hour news coverage about what is going on. People want to talk and hear about football from the moment camp start until the end of the season. While players still realize the importance to playing the game, there are a lot of distractions. The media is constantly looking for a new story and distracting players from the game. That combined with social media can really disrupt a team chemistry. Guys need to be smart about their social media posts because once that send button is hit, it’s gone and can never be taken back. Athletes are under such high scrutiny and need to assume that everything is being recorded.
Another aspect that has changed is the post-practice environment of camp. Teams do not travel as far for training camp anymore, allowing players to stay at home. While this makes it cheaper for the team, you lose an element of the team building aspect. When I was in Denver and Baltimore, players would show up with their own, TVs, pillows, boom boxes, and a bedspread and we headed to the dorms, grown men, 2 to a room in small twin beds, but it was fun. Guys would play cards, roll dice, or just talk and laugh after practice because we were all in that same building. All the guys in Denver will remember “Club Shay Shay.” I really believe that this helped players grow into a team.
It really all comes down to this...
-Get in healthy and stay healthy
-Trust your training
-Know the playbook
-Be the player to make the team better
Good luck to all the players as they head into training camp. Get ready for a good season.