Lessons From the Masters: The Blue Angels

We have a big old schoolhouse chalkboard on the wall right by our door. Whenever I get an inspiration for a post, I scribble the idea on the board… if the idea hits me away from home, it gets entered on my phone and transferred to the chalkboard when I get home.

chalkboardI like the chalkboard… it is very tactile and very visual… plus it is fun to draw up plays and defenses “old school” style when fellow coaches visit!

The other day I was looking at the board… it really is unavoidable since it just about smacks you in the face when you enter our home… plus I can see it from where I normally sit and type these posts.

I noticed there was a common thread running through about 3 or 4 of the ideas that had made it to “The Board”… the commonality was what we as coaches can learn from “experts” in fields outside our discipline.

So this post will be the first in a series of “Lessons from the Masters”.

The National Geographic channel has some interesting programming… especially interesting for an old history teacher and coach. Recently they had a special on the Blue Angels, the US Navy’s precision aerobatic team. The pilots on the Blue Angel flight team are elite… the best of the best… masters of their craft. Over 500 navy pilots a year apply for the squad and only 6 are chosen.

The show itself focused on the training of the Blue Angel team… both physical and mental preparation. The part that intrigued me was their pre-show (pre-game) ritual of “Chair Flying”.   I have written about mental visualization several times (Mental Visualization, The Highest Quality Mental Reps, Inside Russell Wilson’s Brain) but these pilots take it to a new level.   Blue Angels’ Captain Greg McWherter, has this to say about their mental practice….

“We’re a very structured organization, as you can imagine. We do the same thing every practice and on a show day. Two hours prior to flying, we get geared up and drive into work together. When we get to work, we go into our briefing room and close the doors for almost an hour before we brief and we don’t let anyone upset that. No family, no press, no friends. And we do that just so we can get focused as a team. Once we start the briefing, we have a set pattern. I lead the briefing, talking about the weather, and we’ll sit in our chairs and close our eyes. We’ll put our right hands out like we’re gripping the controls stick, our left hands out like we’ve got our throttle and we’ll “chair fly” through the maneuvers just like we’re flying the plane. And from an outsider looking in, it looks like we’re doing a séance.”

Here is a  brief video of their mental visualization technique.

My takeaway… this is yet more proof of the value of mental visualization… a verification that this technique works. It is a technique that these men are quite literally betting their lives on. Mental visualization helps them perform precision maneuvers that at times put their wingtips within eighteen inches from each other while flying at 700 miles per hour.

blue angelsDo you talk to your athletes about how to prepare mentally for a contest? Do you spend time teaching mental visualization techniques? How much time do you spend with your athletes on the different mental components of the game?

You Can Do More… your brain is lying to you…. Don’t Believe It!

Jeff Floyd – youcandomore1@yahoo.com

4 thoughts on “Lessons From the Masters: The Blue Angels

  1. Reblogged this on Coach and Coordinator and commented:
    Football has really moved from a game that was 3 yards and a cloud of dust mentality to a thinking man’s game. In order to prepare our players to be problem solvers on the move, we need to find ways to train the brain as well as get the the information that really helps them on the field.

    Football is data driven. We can give our players reports and information in a number of ways, but what do we really need to do to cut through all of the superfluous information to the things that make them successful? Just Play Solutions has created a coaching tool that allows 1 to 1 interaction, presentation of the critical information, and testing of that information. Information is presented in a way that is relevant to the player through the mode the player wants to receive it (smart phone, tablet, or computer – his choice). http://justplaysolutions.com

    Football is a series of patterns of movements. Each position sees a limited amount of those patterns. It becomes crucial that they are prepared to see and recognize those so they can play fast. If you do not have plans to implement Virtual or Augmented Reality into your player development plan, you might get left behind. This is an area that will have a big impact on how we prepare our players for the game while removing the risk of injury through full contact repetitions; we will still use those, but even in an uptempo practice we are limited in what is available. This is the way to get all players the repetitions they need to play fast. If you haven’t checked out EON Sports VR, you need to do that soon! http://eonsportsvr.com

    How do you coach on the field. Has your uptempo culture forced you to coach off film? You are missing opportunities to improve performance when and where it is needed – on the field. GoRout does an amazing job with this in their See-Do-Review process and their wearable technology. With their system, each player has a small monitor (military grade, about the size of a smart phone) on their belt. This allows them to review their next assignment if needed, perform the rep, and then get video feedback on their display after the play. http://www.gorout.com

    At Coaches Edge Technologies we have created a great initial library full of very detailed content. Check it out here and be prepared for some exciting enhancements to what we already do very soon.

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