The Wildcats finished up their second-annual chemistry trip to Fort Huachuca this week. Last year was the first year the Cats made the three day excursion out of Tucson during training camp. Then what did they do? They went out and posted an 8-5 record, including a ten year bowl-drought-ending victory over BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.
So, is there any correlation between last year's three day get-away and the exorcising of the Arizona football demons? Many of the players and coaches seem to think so. Trust amongst teammates and improved chemistry across the board is often cited by the players when discussing the Fort Huachuca trip.
Clearly, a football team relies on an enormous amount of organization, dedication, and attitude to be successful. Not to mention speed, athletic ability, and good coaching, but that's an entirely different point. On any given play, there are 22 men flying around the field, hurling their bodies into each other at high speeds, creating violent collisions. In order for the offense, or defense, to be successful there needs to be near absolute organization to the violent ballet that takes place every play. Obviously, trusting that the man next to you is executing his role of the play is paramount to a successful play, and team. But, this is the goal of every team. No one starts the season touting their poor chemistry and lack of organization.
So, when does a properly organized, trained, and dedicated team actually create enough good chemistry to turn an average team into a great team?
Typically, I do not put much stock into the supposed chemistry of a team. College football players, or athletes in any sporting endeavour, play hard. Mostly, not to embarrass themselves, and further to achieve some form of personal or team glory. A basketball player will not shoot poorly because he does not like his teammates. A baseeball player will not strikeout more because he does not get along with the starting pitcher. And a football player will not play any less hard than he would normally because he did not perform trust exercises with a teammate in the off-season.
Then, John Mackovic happened, and all of my preconceived notions were thrown out the window.
No, I do not think players will play less hard in games based on any poor chemistry they have with their teammates and coaches. Once the whistle blows, and the game is on, I trust that every single one of those players are playing as hard as they can.
But, the importance of team chemistry goes way beyond the 60 minutes of football every Saturday. For the 2009 Arizona Wildcats, it began December 21, 2008, the day after the Las Vegas Bowl. Each player makes choices throughout the off-season as to how hard he will work, and how much time he will spend with his teammates. How much time will the quarterbacks and receivers spend with one another working on their timing and learning the playbook? How much time will the offensive lineman spend in the weight room, getting stronger, and fitter? Has the coaching staff established a program that encourages players to buy in to? Clearly, the Mackovic program did not create a program that the players bought in to. Otherwise, they would not have made like the Colonists and revolted.
I think these questions are all answered in the off-season when the journalists and cameras are not around. And it is the answers to these questions that make trips to Fort Huachuca a success or a failure. Fort Huachuca was a success last year because of the drastic change in the program prior to the trip. The players bought in. The trip to the Fort became the capstone -- not the foundation -- of an already successful off-season.
So, this season's trip to Fort Huachuca is not necessarily the creator of good chemistry. Winning teams create good chemistry. Winning creates chemistry. The success of last year's team will carry over to this year's team, to create an environment capable of promoting good chemistry. The success or failure of this season's trip to Fort Huachuca will depend largely on everything that has happened prior to last week.
All things considered, this year's trip to the Fort should be a success.