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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mat Drills: Deleted Scenes

(UPDATE: Link fixed.)

One of the most common questions I've gotten from readers over the past few weeks has been about mat drills. Players talk about them regularly this time of year, but what the heck are they?

I chatted with a number of players and coaches about mat drills this week to get the inside scoop, and I have a detailed story in today's Telegraph that you can read HERE.

While the story came out a good bit longer than I had hoped, I still was left with a bunch of good quotes that I couldn't squeeze in. So, here are the deleted scenes...

Georgia strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger on the impact of mat drills...

"Everybody does agility drills, but it's not what you do, it's how you do it. We make our kids do it perfect. If they don't do it perfect, they go back. When you're talking to our kids, they talk about mat drills year round. It's only 10 days, but they talk about it year round. You ask them what's the hardest thing, it's, 'Oh, yeah, mat drills.' You can't even get it out of your mouth. The mat drills are the toughest thing the kids have to go through mentally because they'll break barriers. They'll be able to understand once they get through it, they'll feel like they can conquer the world because they went through mat drills. They went through the hardest thing they've ever gone through in their lives to perform on a football field, and they defeated it."

Van Halanger on what players learn during mat drills...

"One thing you do teach is leadership, guys coming together and helping each other out. It's all what it's meant for. Guys are going to get tired during mat drills. Guys are going to want to quit during mat drills. Guys are going to think they can't go another step. But that's when coaches are going to help, and hopefully players will help, too. I'm seeing that in this team. Players are stepping up and helping these kids who are having a tough day. In the fourth quarter, when we need a stop, all our kids have been there. They're jumping up and down, they're pulling for each other, they're all together as one unit. That's what we talk about in the weight room. When you're lifting, see yourself doing something great. In the mat drills, see yourself performing and becoming a team and making the great play."

Wide receiver Tavarres King on what he has gotten out of mat drills...
"It's tough on the mind and the body, but if you make it through, you prosper and become a better person, a better player and a better man. It's just a brotherhood thing. It's a family thing. You pick your family up when they're down and struggling, and that builds a team. It unifies us in a tremendous way. I feel closer to guys than I did last year just because of mat drills, and I think that's a great thing."

Defensive back Makiri Pugh on the mental side of mat drills...
"It's more the atmosphere of mat drills more than the drills themselves. It really pushes you mentally as well as physically. You have to keep your mind-set up while you're going through them. You have to get a mind over body mentality while you're going through it. But you come out of mats and you're more confident in your body and how much it can take. It tells you your threshold. It tells you where you are."

Pugh on how mat drills translate into the games...
"We all have to do drills in unison, so that teaches you accountability because you don't want to send your teammate back. I want to pick my teammates who's hurting up. That's where the team building comes in. Everybody's one. There are no individuals when you get on the mats. Everybody's helping everybody out or you won't make it, and it's the same thing in a game. If one guy gets a penalty, the team pays. If one guy isn't playing well or blows an assignment, you've got to pick him up, because you need that guy to win the game."

Offensive tackle Vince Vance on how mat drills affect the team...
"Mat drills is an area where we come together as a team and we have to push each other and have to be together as a team in order to get through it. It's going to push your body to the limit. You're going to feel like your lungs are going to burn up out of your chest. It's a lot. But it teaches you explosiveness to balance to everything you might do in the middle of a football game that you don't even realize -- fall on the ground and get back up and run. It's just a mixture of things."

Linebacker Rennie Curran on what the team learns during mat drills...

"I feel like it brings us together when you have to focus when you're tired, encourage each other when you're down. That's what makes mat drills so great because it puts you in a situation that's kind of similar to the game. You're going to get in games where it's fourth-and-1, the game is on the line, and you're tired. So it's like, what are you going to do? Are you going to give up or are you going to man up? It gets you ready for situations like that, and that's really what mat drills are all about."

Curran on what players think of mat drills early in their careers...

"Even when I was a freshman I always heard about mat drills, mat drills. I was like, 'Why is this so hard? What makes it so bad?' All the older guys were just like, 'You'll see.' It's something you'll always going to be curious about because the two things you hear about are mat drills and fall camp being the most trying times football-wise. Coming in as a freshman, you pretty much have those days marked on your calendar. You're not looking forward to it, but you know it's coming."

Curran on how he deals with the younger players during mat drills...

"I let them know. I don't try to pretend that I made it through mat drills without a scratch. I let them know how it was my freshman year and just reinforce the fact that it's going to be tough, but you're going to make it through. It's nothing you're going to die from. I just let them know that there's nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone. That's what's going to make you better -- especially when you're out on the field. I just tell them that there's going to be times when you're on that field and you're going to be dog tired and you're not going to want to make that play. You're going to be questioning giving up. This is one of the things that gets you prepared for those moments. So I just try to encourage them that if they do things right and do thing to the 'T' like the coaches want and show fight and show want, that they'll make it through."

Curran on the longterm impact of mat drills...

"You feel tired after that mat drill is over, but once it's all said and done and you realize that you didn't die, that you made it through, you realize you can make it through a lot more things than you thought you could, you're stronger than you thought you were and you can push harder than you thought you could."

4 comments:

watcher16 said...

Quick question: in your article you say the mat drill at Georgia are unique, so does that mean that FSU doesn't do them anymore once Van Halanger left?

the anonymous suckup said...

Thanks for the story, David. I was one of those who asked for an in-depth story about mat drills, and you delivered big-time. Thanks again.

David Hale said...

Watcher -- I didn't even think to ask, and assumed that at least parts of the routine changed w/o Van Halanger. If I see him this week though, I'll ask if he has any idea on that and get back to you.

AnonS-U -- Many thanks, and happy to do it. In addition to being a HoF S&T coach, Van Halanger is a HoF interview subject, too. Always fun to talk to him for a story.

Carter said...

David,

Does the strength and conditioning staff mandate the players taking supplements (like protein shakes, not the A-Rod varieties), or is that sort of thing left up to the player?

Barwis at Michigan is a big chocalate milk and protein powder fan. Barwis' S & C practices at WVU turned a bunch of unheralded recruits into BCS Bowl participants.

On a personal note, David, have you stuck to your pledge to hit the gym w/ regularity?

Thanks.