When the Alabama football teams steps onto the field every Saturday, the Crimson Tide players are a mixture of brave, fearless gladiator and graceful entertainers.
Bryant-Denny Stadium provides the Tide with an arena that rivals the Coliseum built during the Roman Empire. The 101,000 fans that pack the stadium create an atmosphere that makes Bryant-Denny one of the toughest places to play in the country. Those fans expect a certain level of physicality mixed with finesse from their entertaining warriors.
But the product the players and coaches display on game days includes an extraordinary game plan and individuals who risk life and limb for the greater good of the team.
Those amazing football Saturdays would not be possible without proper preparation throughout the off season and during the week leading up to each individual game.
Head coach Nick Saban said you would have to write a book to mention everything included in the Tide’s off season training regime.
“There’s a lot of things that go into training for a season – that goes all the way back to February,” Saban said.
Facing a new team each week presents its own set of challenges. Senior defensive tackle Josh Chapman said everyday during weekly preparation presents a unique opportunity for the team.
“On Mondays, basically it’s just introducing the team,” Chapman said. “Tuesdays are hard days where we get after it, and Wednesday you get after the situational stuff. And Thursdays are way more situational, and Friday’s more mental.”
Along with opponent preparation, one of the more important things for any athlete is his diet. For football players, you want to balance being big and strong with the quickness and explosiveness to dominate your opponent.
“We have a nutritionist who tries to control the menu as well as the diet of certain players,” Saban said. “It’s relative to some guys needing to gain body fat and some guys who need to lose body fat. So, we kind of try to address that.”
Other elements that go along with the training regime are conditioning and weight training. Just lifting weights and running won’t cut it for Division-I athletes. Lifting weights is a must when trying to gain strength and build muscle, with the key factor being how you monitor your weight training, so as to not fatigue your muscles.
“We have a conditioning regiment that we do on a weekly basis,” Saban said. “Whether it’s a minimal amount of weightlifting to maintain strength or the way we condition in practice early in the week. But the emphasis we try to make with our players is if you really practice hard, you will get the number of reps in practice. If you finish the plays in practice hard, then we shouldn’t need to condition. You should be in condition for the game. But if you’re not giving that kind of effort on each play, then we’re going to need to condition more to try and get you ready to play the game.”
For Saban, it all boils down to being prepared for the game. He said playing hard every play is not an option if you get tired during the game.
“Mental toughness, physical toughness, discipline to execute – those three things are critical factors in being successful, and there’s one prerequisite: you got to be in great physical condition,” Saban said. “‘Because as soon as you get tired, you’re not going to do any of those things very well. You’re going to make mental errors, so you’re going to lose your discipline. Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”