About this time every year, everyone begins buzzing about combine training, obviously due the NFL Combine's television coverage. The top collegiate players, looking to improve their draft stock, begin working out at facilities across the country to try and gain that small edge that they didn't have before. This trickles down to the high school level, as combines and select camps have grown into a powerful recruiting tool and all participants want to be at their best as they go through testing and position drills in front of scouts and selection committees.
It seems only natural that when something is on the line, people get focused. What has bothered me about the process is that athletes start training harder and more often leading up to a combine, and they train for the combine's specific events. First, if you truly want to be better at your craft, shouldn't you always be training hard? If you feel the need to pick up your training regimen leading up to a camp or combine, then how hard were training beforehand?
Second, when players begin training for a specific event at a combine, they lose sight of what the sport is really about. For example, take the NFL's Bench Press test, where players try to press 225lbs as many times as they can. Some players reach as high as 50 repetitions, which is truly a feat in and of itself, but how well does that translate to football? How often are we on our backs pushing objects off of ourselves 50 times? High repetitions on the Bench Press becomes strength endurance, not maximal strength. In football, we utilize maximal strength more than strength endurance.
The same principle is in place for most tests, like the 40 time, the most highly scrutinized test of them all. We change a linebacker's "stock" based on a fast or slow 40 time, but more often than not, linebackers are moving laterally, backpedaling, changing direction, flipping their hips, etc. All that time spent towards improving a 40 yard dash may help their draft stock, but work on change of direction and mutli-directional speed would have made them a better football player.
My end point is that while combines and camps are an integral part of our game, and a great scouting tool, don't lose sight of the game in favor of the combines. Work hard all year, not just in the weeks leading up to the event. And, train to become a better football player as opposed to just training to be better at a particular test. If your limiting factor happens to overlap with a test, then it's a happy coincidence. Train hard, train right, all year!
SPU's Alex Drayson writes the SPU Football Performance Blog.