Friday, December 21, 2012

The Navy SEAL Delusion

It's quite amusing to see all the make-believe military and special ops training that many athletic programs are doing these days. I am not quite sure what it's for. Maybe coaches think they might be developing "mental toughness" or "team cohesion".
It seems every week there is a story popping up about how some team trained with or like the Navy Seals this past off-season. Now, I enjoy learning and reading about the Navy Seals as much as anybody and I think there are principles to take from them. However, the delusion that doing a week of "evolutions" or a few days out the year pretending to be on the beach of Coronado Island seems a bit ludicrous for athletes.

BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) is a filtration process to become a Navy SEAL where the enlistees are able to DOR (drop on request) at any time, which is a good thing for the SEALS, as it gets rid of those that aren't mentally tough enough. The SEALS aren't expecting BUD/S to develop as much mental toughness as they are to weed-out those that don't have the mental character. I highly recommend Dick Couch's (one of the original 'frogmen') book "The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228" to get a very descript look at what BUD/S training is.

The Navy SEALS are the best at what they do, because they plan, prepare, and follow through day after day, month after month, year after year - "the training never ends" -  it's no way just BUD/S... and the way I see those teams that use faux BUD/S is downright sloppy - how about just good technique and hard work in the weight room, field or court? Navy Seals are disciplined, grown-up men who are warriors that take their job very seriously. I work with student-athletes.

How about just following through with some of the principles that make for good SEALS (and equally, good athletes)?

-Required to be prepared (eating right, going to bed on time, extra practice, study, stretching, whatever...).

-Being held accountable, showing up every day and on time (and making sure teammates do also). Such as being able to get up and perform early in the morning at any point in the year... not just one or two weeks in the summer. If a SEAL screws up, there is a consequence (we should have consequences with our athletes too, aka, holding people accountable).

-Expecting things to be done right (respecting technique and effort, no screwing around when it's between the start and finish of the allotted training time), and having a deep respect for the process, with the intent to get better each day.

-Being consistently great at the fundamentals (what's more of a mental challenge than doing both the little things and big things right every day?).

-There are no "off" days, everyday has a focus (all the things above, along with going to class and maintaining grades).

Maybe the "Hell Week" is used for team building? Each year, it seems someone is doing something more radical, like all the military training, to "team build". How do you top this stuff? I get athletes and sport coaches wondering why we aren't doing the same or how we might be able to do something "outside the box" too. Maybe someday, I'll take a team up Mt. Everest? Athletic development/strength and conditioning has nearly become an entertainment profession. I remember playing "War" when I grew up... I guess it's all the same. Whatever happened to team building like challenges from something called 'practice'?

There is the possibility that sometimes pressing too hard for all this mental toughness training and team building can back fire too. I know I've participated in some of these 'exercises', and I thought they were the stupidest thing I've ever done - artificial and fake. Everyone wants more with "new and better", yet often paradoxically, trying too hard, gets you less with "old and worse".

But what do I know... the placebo seems to be the thing these days.


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