It was another demoralizing loss, 38 to 7, for the Cal Bears of UC Berkeley the other night as they took on the University of Washington Huskies. The game was in Seattle, and the rain had come and gone all throughout the day. Another night game for the Bears, after a long day of sitting around in the hotel. I tried to remain aware as I walked through the hotel, sat in on team meetings, tended to a few players in the make-shift training room, and watched as they chose the foods that would ultimately give them energy for the game.
We had flown up the night before and arrived at the hotel around 600pm. That would mean we would be there for nearly 24-hours before getting on the bus and heading to the stadium. Lots and lots of time for little DETAILS to get sucked up into the void of stagnation.
How do you keep the DETAILS in the forefront of the brains’ of 70 young men who just want to go out and play a game? I don’t believe there is one easy answer.
Due to television contracts, the PAC-12 Conference had taken on the bulk of night games over the past few years, which often meant that players would not be back in their beds for sleep until the early morning hours of the next day leading to a compressed week of practice, schooling, recovery, and then another game. As you can see, there are many DETAILS involved. This makes you wonder if it even has anything to do with football and the student-athlete any longer. It is as if the game has turned solely into entertainment, advertising and ultimately the bottom-line of being a money generator for television networks.
The Bears had not claimed victory since September 16th when they pulled off a small, but surprising upset, over the University of Mississippi. That was 4-games ago. That win gave them a record of 3 wins, with ZERO losses. Not a bad start for a team with a new coaching staff. Deemed a rebuilding year with low expectations from anyone on the outside looking in.
Now with some key players injured and the season half-way over, the Bears find themselves at 3 and 3. 6-games remain in the regular season. The past few weeks have been quite sobering. The last two contests, not even close. The DETAILS, those little things that often lead to failure or success in life, have been overlooked. That sense of being able to fail, yet bounce back and overcome has not come to fruition.
There has not been a specific player who has taken the lead. That player that steps forward with a voice that ignites the rest of the men in the locker room. It is not that one has to be an extroverted leader, but if not, then the actions on the field must speak louder than words. A combination of both is quite important in this game. A void remains when it comes to the players taking what the coaches instill in them throughout the week, and then bringing that knowledge of the game to appropriate life once the whistle blows to start the contest.
Team Captains being assigned each week, rather than players taking charge and assuming the role themselves. Not necessarily the way battles are won. But that is just one small DETAIL.
We could talk nutrition. From sugary snacks to Chick-fil-A. We could consider uniforms, cold-weather gear, and those interactions between players and equipment staff. We could consider specific practice sessions not getting recorded on video because an intern is still learning how to read the practice script, or profane music being blasted during practice and players dancing vice being focused while going through game-like scenarios. DETAILS.
A player parking his car illegally before practice, not once but many times, or another mocking the school’s band during half-time of a game. The DETAILS.
Seeing another team not being that much better in terms of skill, yet being more disciplined and thus paying better attention to the DETAILS. Late hits (tackles) often equaling what is considered a “loss of control.” Players pulling themselves out of games due to confidence issues. Strong entitlement. Those little things.
Good men. Caring and loyal, but missing out on a few DETAILS.
These things do in fact matter. Whether to pick up trash in the locker room, or in the airplane. To stay up late playing video games and talking on the phone or to turn off the electronics to get some sleep and allow the body to heal. The DETAILS matter now, tomorrow, next week and beyond.
And it has hardly anything to do with football, it is really about the Game of LIFE.