T-Bob: The importance of LSU spring ball, part one
by T-Bob Hebert,posted Apr 1 2014 5:05PM
If you wandered outside sometime in the last couple days, you know New Orleans is enjoying pristine weather. Spring finally peeled back the covers of winter and offers us a brief respite from the cold, before the summer heat comes barging in and burns us all to the ground.
This spring feeling brings me back to my time at LSU; specifically the month long spring ball I competed in four times during my career. Spring ball is a bit odd. No one is quite sure how to rank the importance of the practices and the individual battles taking place. While it may be true that no one wins a job during spring, there can be no denying significant advantages and leads are won or lost. It is for this reason, if no other, that spring ball is a critical component to a player’s career and success at LSU. I would like to try to give you a quick look into some of my experiences during spring ball at LSU.
Spring always started with an air of general anxiety. Players were excited to show what they could bring to the table in the upcoming season. We hadn’t put on the pads in a few months, but it didn’t mean we were idle. Strength and Conditioning Coach Tommy Moffit spent the months between the end of the season and the beginning of spring tuning and honing our bodies into well-oiled machines. Some (like me, more often than not) would require some general maintenance after the season closed, but it never slowed us down for long…thanks to the team’s stellar training staff.
After the maintenance, we started tuning up in a series of workouts that culminated in the 4th quarter program. The program was tough on the body and tougher on the mind. The result of 4th Quarter was a team full of young men at their physical peak eager to prove themselves…eager to prove they deserved a shot to play in Tiger Stadium. Before you knew it, the battles for position dominance were underway.
One of the unique parts about spring ball is the abundance of time for reflection between every practice. During the season you practice every day and prepare for a new team every week. This leads to a feeling of hurtling, constantly trying to stay on top of what new information will help you glean the game deciding advantage that particular week. Spring, however, is pure repetition and reflection. Practices are only once every two days and it’s always the same plays against the same defensive squad.
Every time you enter your position meeting room the depth chart is updated as is the seating chart (ie. starters up front, then 2nd string, etc…). This immediate feedback leads to a greater sense of job insecurity generally found during the more stable season. This insecurity is genius, because it forces you to figure out how to best learn from your mistakes. You must learn how to confront, digest, and then move on from those mistakes. If you dwell too long on a bad practice or a bad play, that could be the anchor that eventually drags you down.
The other great part about immediate feedback is you can see immediate gains. If you move from 3rd to 2nd string, or 2nd to 1st, you’re encouraged because you can very plainly see you are doing something right.
The harder part comes when you fall back. This happened to me multiple times throughout my career and it never got any easier. I do, however, believe having to fight back after dropping helped me gain greater control over my mind. Anytime I was trying to grind my way up the depth chart I operated on a one-track mind. I zeroed in on controlling what was within my power to do so. My effort level, mental assignments, attitude…these were all things that I could directly manipulate and I used that to my advantage. By blocking out all the white noise, I was able to focus on the task at hand and improve.
The four weeks spent in this atmosphere eventually culminates with an inter-squad scrimmage set in the football cathedral known as Tiger Stadium.
My Thursday blog will be part two of spring and will focus on the spring game itself.