Though i publicly maintain that i am no fan of Patriots coach Bill Belichick (hey look, it’s a family honor thing. He cut my brother when he coached in Cleveland), i must confess that i do have an admiration for the way he conducts business. For instance, in Indy this week while practicing, Belichick pulls his guys into the locker room after an hour on the field and sits them down for thirty minutes, including a “half-time” speech to prepare the players for the upcoming game. Then he puts them back out on the field to finish the practice session.
He’s literally running a simulation of half-time. Pretty smart stuff if you ask me.
Now why is that important? Because players thrive on schedule. Anything that knocks players off schedule even a little bit can turn the momentum in a game from a nice mojo wind blowing at your back to a gale force Nor’easter right smack dab in the face.
Players are creatures of habit. The normal 12:00 half-time for a regular season game has been expanded to 30:00 to accomadate the half-time show. The normal frenetic 12:00 half-time pace will be replaced by an unfamiliar cooling down period. It requires a change of pace physically and mentally for the guys when they exit, stage left for the Madonna proceedings. A slower approach to de-loading the first half is required as well as the ability to stay focused while the material girl does her thing and then kicking it to ramp up for the second half.
For a coach trying to keep forty-five amped up and over-caffeinated football players riddled with testosterone, adrenalin, Atomic Balm and post-game plans focused on the minutae of the game plan in one room for 30:00 is like herding a bunch of bi-polar cats through a dog pound at feeding time. That spells disruption for the routine.
You can catch a glimpse of what that’s like when a lightning delay kicks the players off the field for an unscheduled break. It’s hard to maintain focus and intensity while you’re cooling your heels during an unscheduled break. It’s out of the players “normal” routine. When play resumes, it’s usually a bit haggard for awhile until one or both teams regain their focus. Or don’t.
And that’s for a pre-season or early regular season game, not near the pressure felt by the players in the biggest game of their life.
Paying attention to the details is usually what separates winners from losers. Score one for Belichick.