MADISON — The dog days of summer go on in a pace that can seem relentless at times, but at least most of us are not participating in grueling football practices.
For those who do have to participate in those grueling practices, beating the summer heat can be crucial.
As the Wisconsin Badgers march forward through there summer practices, the days start to blend together. The special teams period today seems quite similar to yesterday’s and drills become harder and harder to get through.
“In camp, when those days kind of mix together and you don’t really know what day is what, I think keeping that end goal in the back of your mind is important,” junior offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel said.
But that end goal cannot over shadow winning the rep, winning the play in front of them. Motivating to get better every rep is sometimes the hardest battle over the course of practices leading up to a season.
“You gotta focus on getting better that play and that rep. There’s nothing you can really look past,” senior fullback Austin Ramesh said.
Being focused on only what is directly in front of you takes skill. For those of us who are not knocking heads and cracking the pads every day, imagine you are taking a test. How hard is it to just focus on the first question of multiple choice section? How hard is it to not look ahead to the essay section and start mentally preparing for that part?
It takes the same kind of mental toughness to get through a day of practice as it does to get through a multi-part test. For the Wisconsin Badgers, they use the skill that got them to where they are now: Competition.
“Honestly, a lot of it builds through competition. We all, whether it’s spoken or unspoken, we all have the same end goals and same kind of mindset and we really want to improve as much as we can,” senior linebacker Jack Cichy, who is unfortunately out for the season with an ACL tear, said.
“Camp is one of those times when you batten down the hatches and really just try and compete our butts off. It’s fun. It shows, whether it’s offense goes against defense, whether we’re in specific drills, just that competition of wanting to win that play or win that rep,” Cichy continued. “That just shows that we’re pushing each other and each group is just trying to get the best rep they can.”
Practices are often segmented. Positions groups working individually through drills, then the offense working with the offense and defense with the defense.
It then moves onto a team period, when the offense goes against the defense. This can take the form of a goal line period, seven-on-seven drills, two-minute drills or team scrimmages.
“There’s a little bit of a different approach to it in practice when we’re playing individually we always do something together as a team whether it’s offense vs. defense, team drills or if it’s just the passing drills, we’re always going against each other,” sophomore quarterback Alex Hornibrook. “It’s pretty fun to compete against each other and that builds camaraderie.”
Sometimes that competition boils over and into some on field spats, you see that even more often at the NFL level. For the Badgers though, the competition builds respect for the players standing next to each other on the sideline or lining up against them during practice.
“We go into our positions and then we have our team on team and there we really bond with your own position guys. But then you really get better as a team,” senior linebacker Leon Jacobs. “We build up respect for each other you might beat them on one play but they’ll get you on the next play.”
The equation is there. Competition plus respect equates to camaraderie and team chemistry. Bonds that are forged in summer and create a love between all of the players no matter which side of the ball they line up on.
“Just like I love [cornerback] Nick [Nelson], I love everyone else on this team and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help them win and I know they’ll do the same for me and that’s what makes us so good,” senior cornerback Derrick Tindal said.