Finding the zone
Getting there takes time and effort. The zone is a destination where all things click in perfect harmony. You will know that you have reached the zone when all the noise disappears, everything slows down, your mind opens, and the little details come in to focus.
Typically you have to take a complex situation, break down it down into little pieces, over analyze the process, put it together, and work on making it second nature in order to find this place.
I am going to use perfecting a golf swing, riding a motorcycle, and moving an offense downfield to describe what I am calling “the zone”. Golf, motorcycles, and football are all complex, but they can feel natural and easy once all the pieces fall into place.
Golf is a really a simple game. You have a club and a little white ball. The goal is to get the ball in the hole with as few shots as possible. Learning to hit the ball with a golf club is the key to the game. You can break a swing down using the laws of physics to determine what body parts need to move, or not move, to obtain control over the flight of the ball.
Stand with feet shoulders width apart. Find a good balance point. Knees slightly bent. Grasp the club in both hands. Nice easy back swing, followed with a smooth forward swing. Don’t try too hard to hit the ball. Let the club do the work. Keep your eyes on the ball. Don’t pull up. I said don’t pull up. Follow through and watch where the ball is headed.
Sounds easy right? Swinging a club is easy. It is sort of like a baseball bat. Just go to the driving range and hit a few balls. They should go straight. No one ever misses the ball, or slices it into the woods.
Lots of people spend many hours developing that swing and they lose it if they don’t play on a regular basis. Muscle memory and a calm mind are important to a good game in golf. Get in the zone with your golf swing, and you will not think about “how” to swing, just where the ball is going and what club to use.
Motorcycles are a wonderful creation and they bring me to my second zone concept.
At first riding a motorcycle seems impossible. They are so different from a car. They have two wheels and they can fall over easily. There is no seat belt to keep you strapped in and no big metal box to keep you safe. You are subject to the elements and that is part of the beauty of the beast.
At first, you are going to get lost in the details. The controls are different from a car. You have a throttle instead of a gas pedal. Your right hand controls the throttle. There are two brakes, yup I said two. You grab the front brake with your right hand, and your right foot stomps on the back brake. Your left hand mans the clutch, and your left foot is responsible for shifting, not your right hand.
Keeping the rubber on the road is a key to happiness on a bike. Remember to put your feet down when stopping, after you get done braking and downshifting, and watch for uneven pavement. These machines are heavy, and if you let gravity take hold, and they will head for the ground. Learning to use the clutch, throttle, and brakes is necessary. Learning to turn in slow speeds and learning to lean during higher speeds is essential.
After all that mental gymnastics, the fun part starts, and you can head out for a ride on a nice curvy road. Your mind plays back the instructions: Slow, Look, Lean, Roll. Slow the bike to a good speed using both brakes. Look thru the turn to where you will exit. Lean the bike over to get it thru the turn and Roll the throttle on to pick up speed throughout the turn.
Roll on, I like that part. :)
Slow, Look, Lean, Roll…..slow, look, lean, roll…… release the throttle, use both brakes, remember to downshift, look for the apex, roll on….
At some point after you have been riding for a while, you stop thinking and something magical happens and then you become one with the machine. You look at the twisty road ahead and a big smile forms. The details have sunk in to your subconscious and now you just see the dappled sunshine on the tar, feel the wind, and hear the scream of the engine as you accelerate. At this point you have found the zone.
On to my third point.
Football is simple also. The ball must cross into the end zone to get points. It can be done by land, with a running back or a scrambling QB, or by air. The end zone is big too, not a small area like a hockey goal.
The concept is simple, but they add plenty of rules to make scoring, or even moving the ball difficult, and let’s not forget that there is a defense trying to stop you from moving the ball as well.
The game starts out with the team putting some guys on a line. Tell those guys to stay very still, no twitching, no head bobs, no winking, no movement at all, at least until the ball is snapped. Tell them to listen for the snap count so that they know when the ball is snapped, since they can’t look at it. Perhaps the snap count can be changed and altered to fool the defense, but just the defense. Offensive guys must not be fooled for it to work right.
Some guy is assigned the center position and he has an extra special responsibility of getting the ball from the ground to the quarterback without dropping it. Not too fast, not too slow, just the right speed and the right place. That is simple, no pressure there. Big guys like bracing themselves on the ground in an awkward position with big ol defensive lineman staring them down, ready to pounce. You might think that the center might snap the ball too quickly just to get ready for the 300 pound guy aiming to run him over.
Once the ball is snapped, everything starts to happen quickly. Running backs are in movement, faking the run, making a block. Defensive guys are headed in trying to get to the QB, or tackle the RB in the backfield. There is no time for panic. Whoever has the ball, better be in the zone, so that things happen as they should. The center starts it and his responsibility is to transfer the ball safely to its new owner.
The QB is one of your more important players who should understand the offense and be able to read the defense. They have to know the plays, the snap count, the receivers’ routes, and they have to read the defense and move about in, or out, of the pocket, as is needed, to find the time to throw. On running plays the QB can step out of the zone pretty quickly, as the ball, and the responsibility pass to the RB. Some running backs have great vision and they can predict where tiny holes and lanes will appear. This is of course is based upon knowledge of their blockers and a good understanding of time and space. I don’t think you can teach vision like this, but it can be developed.
As with all things, there will be many obstacles and distractions that will pull the players from the zone. Maybe it is a fierce home crowd, or a wet slippery ball with a mind of its own, or blinding snow, or second guessing from too many mis-thrown balls, untimely snaps, an angry coach, or even the ranting of a T.O. type receiver as he complains about not getting the ball enough.
I think the Rams’ offense is close to the zone. We are seeing some penalties from the line, but not too many. They seem to have the snap count down and handoffs are working well. Bulger has been looking very comfortable in the last couple of games and he seems to be in control of the offense. No interceptions for Bulger this year is showing Linehan’s change in philosophy towards a more conservative type of offense. Steven Jackson is seeing the holes, gaining yards, making catches and making blocks. This offense could very well put up big points and give the defense a chance to get their act together.
Watching Bulger on the sidelines gives me the best insight into how he is feeling. I see a look of relaxed confidence and a bit swagger starting to develop. This year is going to get interesting.
“Amateurs practice until they get it right.
Professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong”
Re: Finding the zone
I see you are progressing nicely.
When do you wish to begin the "golf on a motorcycle" classes? It's not for the faint of heart. Even Buddha lost his cool when trying to putt on his Harley.
Putting is 50 percent technique and 90 percent positive thinking.
Re: Finding the zone
I stretched the connections a bit in this article. I wish I had more experience playing football to draw upon, but I don't, so this is what you get. :)
Re: Finding the zone
I thought you did a fine job. There was no sarcasm in my comment, only humor intended. I appreciated the creativity, and depth of work, you used to draw parallels from golf and biking to football. A superior effort indeed.
And, your knowledge of football stands on its own, and stands nicely.