I will be the first to acknowledge that I often adopt the role of the extreme maverick in the football performance profession. Let me promise you that I only behave in this visionary fashion because I believe that there is a better way available to us…and that new frontiers of performance exist out there for the athletes & teams that play this great sport. At the forefront of these crusades often lie the idea of movement and the analysis & on-field optimization of it. I have witnessed glimpses of this bizarre world that I want others to be exposed to…not only for the 1,696 players who are actively playing in the League right now…but also for the ones who will play it later and even for the enthusiasts who are so passionate about it, as well.
About a year ago, I wrote a blog entitled, “Who is in charge of the movement?”:
Within it, I posed the question to all, ‘when we are referring to the most physically gifted and freakish athletes in the world, who are having millions of dollars invested in them to MOVE around a football field for 3 hours each Sunday, how is it that a person entrusted in helping them perfect that movement is missing from coaching staffs?’
Well, I am here to ask that question once again…just about a year later.
Ferraris on a Football Field – Quick Analogy
Imagine this for me if you will…this coming weekend, we are going to get the fine people at Ferrari to supply us with 92 of their sweetest & dopest rides. We are going to conduct a not-so-friendly, winner-take-all race where each of these 92 will match up with one another.
Let’s say for the sake of argument we put these cars on a highly complex circuit course of swooping turns (both right & left hand) with a few straight-aways mixed in there too. Of course, no one really cares about these cars in a drag race as you can’t really feel the true utter brilliance of a supercar until you feel it handle powering in & out of corners. Besides, there are lots of cars that don’t cost $200,000 which can go 0-60 in 3.5 seconds (OK; not lots but bear with me).
Now, let’s make a wider distinction about each of these cars. They are all street legal Ferraris; however, they vary in make, model, and even years & miles. That said, most will agree that even an 8 year old Ferrari that is a little longer in the tooth will still likely be the meanest thing on most streets that we live on. In fact, a 2006 Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano produced 612 horsepower, went 0-60 in 3.5 seconds, and was capable of hitting top speeds of 205mph. In contrast, this past year, Ferrari released what it claims to be its fastest production car ever; the F12berlinetta, which they claim can go 0-60 in 3.1 seconds and is estimated to top out at right around 220mph.
Now, I will not pretend that I wouldn’t rather have the ’14 version over the ’06 but I sure wouldn’t mind the latter. And in a race of twists & turns, if we pit those cars against one another, what is REALLY going to make the ultimate difference in who will come out victorious? One can argue that it’s going to come down to two vitally important variables that we haven’t talked about yet; the driver and the mechanic/crew chief.
If we put a highly inexperienced driver in the ’14 F12 and the most amazing driver imaginable in the ’06 599 head-to-head on the same course, I think most would put their money on the older car. This money would be even surer if the whole car has been gone through by a mechanic/crew chief who understands the inner workings of these fine pieces of Italian superiority rather than some guy who has never touched or seen one beyond a poster hanging on his wall when he was growing up. Taking these things in consideration, my money is now firmly on that ’06 despite the vast mechanistic performance attributes that the F12 has available to it.
Where am I going with all of this?
My hypothetical race of Ferraris is really no different than what happens each Sunday in the fall. 92 guys (46 active on each side) step out on a field in front of our eyes and show us what makes them the Ferraris while we operate at slower, mere mortal speeds of Chevrolets, Dodges, and Fords. They are simply genetic freaks of nature who are capable of extraordinary displays & feats of athleticism.
Unfortunately, most of these guys are actually driving their car with a lot of horsepower available that is never actually being fully transferred from the rubber to the road because many of them do not have the best driver (their own brain & ingrained habits & behaviors) and also could be operating blindly with no mechanic or crew chief (or a rather outdated or uninformed one!) to assist them in optimizing their individual performance on their race track (i.e. the field on Sunday).
In case you’re not following along with my car analogies…
The Ferrari itself: The player
The Ferrari’s driver: The player’s brain (and the ingrained habits and displayed ‘driving’ behaviors)
The Ferrari’s crew chief/mechanic: Position coach, Strength & Conditioning Coach, or Athletic Trainer
Why the need for a paradigm shift?
Let me remind you of a few certainties of the NFL that aren’t bound to change anytime soon: 1. Time is of the essence. 2. Being in the right place is equally important. 3. Because of 1 & 2, every fraction of a second counts so spatially and temporal considerations of movement are one of a player’s primary performance concerns. 4. Millions upon millions of dollars are being invested into the team’s personnel each year (to move around a field and perform optimally).
That said, all it would take is one brief sit-down with me to watch film and I think you would end up agreeing that the majority of the sport’s athletes (even many of the “top” performers) are NOT moving in space and time as optimally as they could and even more unfortunate; very few who are entrusted with assisting them are doing very much about it!
Because of this: 1. Players are not getting the most out of their careers (many have the potential for ultimate movement mastery and performance peaks) and are often getting injured in ways that they shouldn’t due to causes that could’ve been prevented (and also not having the same quality of life post-football). 2. Teams are not getting the value that they potentially could from the players’ on-field performance due to wasted potential and the constant turnover of players (as well as coaches!).
I believe that we could start to solve some of these problems by the simple addition of a single staff member…yup, you guessed it: a Movement Coach/Specialist!
Part 1 Conclusion
Today, I just wanted to re-introduce the need for, as well as the concept of, the Movement Coach in the NFL. In Part 2, I will further discuss how technical movement skill and optimization of it (if we can truly call it that) is currently being addressed across most of the league today while also uncovering exactly what I feel a Movement Coach could bring to the table for a team in that regards (including a sample job description!).