Back to Basics

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lombardiVince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, never liked to lose a game. The team lost one particular game that Mr. Lombardi thought they definitely should not have. The game was lost due to the team making several mistakes on the field. On the bus ride to the airport the coach said nothing. On the plane ride home again, he said nothing. The next day at practice, the coach gathered the team around him on the field, reached into a canvas bag, and said to the team, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” The team then proceeded to go through all of the basics of the game of football.

I few years ago, I was hired to work with a prestigious military college drill team. The team had been showing poor results for several years and a member of the staff thought it was time for a change. That staff member and I spoke at length through email about the issues he felt the team had and from that discussion I formulated a plan for a weekend’s worth of rigorous training. By the end of the weekend, I took the team through regulation and color guard drill according to the Marine Corps Order under which most colleges drill. I had also written a two-minute sample exhibition routine that I taught them.

That drill season, the team did better than the previous years, but there was still one big issue that had to be addressed – attitude. The definition that best describes this term in this instance would be, a “truculent or uncooperative behavior; a resentful or antagonistic manner”. It not only came from the older members (juniors and seniors) of the team, but also from alumni who got wind of my presence at the school and wondered why I was taking the team through regulation drill. For them, what I really should have concentrated on was perfecting the exhibition routine that had been marched year after year after year with poor results. I encouraged the cadets to concentrate on the task at hand and to hopefully take and “run with the ball” of training this refresher course offered. It didn’t happen completely. (Insert the music, Tradition!, from Fiddler on the Roof.) With continued concentration on and respect for the principles that the cadets received throughout the season, the weekend would have had a much bigger impact.

It’s not just that your team revisits the fundamentals of your service’s drill and ceremonies manual, it’s that you help your team realize that it is extremely important to keep those fundamentals with you, to understand that fundamentals have a great impact on what you do in a performance. For instance, we would never take a new cadet and put him/her on an exhibition drill team during the first week of school and expect a solid performance. Nor would we take a new member of the fire department ceremonial team and expect perfection without a solid grounding in the fundamentals of ceremonial drill.

High school cadets would do well to revisit their service drill and ceremonies manual yearly, is not each semester. The same goes for first responder and military honor guard units, a yearly (at least) review  of the manual, would be a great refresher to keep those fundamental facts fresh.

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