Army 2013 Review: Energy Into Excellence

Army 2013 Review: Energy Into Excellence

One very specific part of the art of competitive athletics is found in the ability to generate and sustain energy in hostile, neutral, or sleepy circumstances. Being able to light the pilot light and then keep the flame burning when not playing in front of a partisan crowd is something that enables athletes to reach a higher level of performance.


LULLS, LIFTS, AND LOCKING IN: COMPETITIVE PSYCHOLOGY 101

If you've been watching Wimbledon tennis the past few days or weeks, you might have noticed that when a big quarterfinal or semifinal match ends, the crowd disperses to get some refreshment and decompress from the experience, especially if a star player was involved, and even more especially if a star player was knocked out of the tournament.

When the second match on the same court begins, you will often see that half of the seats are empty. The crowd is late in returning to its seats. Taking a break matters more to many paying customers than remaining bolted to a seat for what could be six or seven hours. When the players in a second quarterfinal or second semifinal take the court, they do so with very little surrounding energy in the arena. When such a circumstance occurs, they have to create their own energy and be sure that they don't get sucked into the vacuum of quietude that pervades the environment… at least until the crowd comes back.

Playing games away from home can sometimes be rousing, especially in the case of a visit to Air Force. Playing a neutral-site game against Navy is never an occasion in which Army has to worry about motivation. Yet, this team plays enough games in sleepy surroundings (Temple, Hawaii, Boston College, Ball State) that it is familiar with the challenge of generating its own internal sources of motivation. One very striking pair of statistics shows why Army has to improve in this specific part of competition in 2014.

When the website cfbstats.com broke down the tackles for loss category, it showed that in Army's seven road or neutral-site games from last season, the Black Knights' defense registered 29 tackles for loss. In Army's nine losses, the team collected 39 tackles for loss. Those are both averages of fewer than 4.5 TFLs per game, an average of roughly one TFL per quarter. Just as a point of comparison, Army averaged 5.8 TFLs in home games (29 in 5 games) and 6.33 in wins (19 in 3). The differentials in TFLs were rather significant.

Tactics and strategies have their place in football, and surely, Jeff Monken will try to give his defense the best chance to succeed. Yet, there is an art to playing well on the road, to the process of carrying yourself with a better competitive mentality. This is something Army must try to figure out, find, and keep as the 2014 season develops.

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