Cue up all the cute phrases like “new normal” or “in these uncertain times” because that’s pretty much how every post of mine might begin these days. As we launch into our first “virtual training camp” as fans, it’s reasonable to wonder how players will bond as teammates and develop team chemistry when social distancing rules all but sterilize the connection, physically… and emotionally as well.
It’s understandable we focus our attention on figuring out what physical changes must take place to physically protect ourselves and others. Wearing a mask helps in a physical sense… but losing the ability to see someone’s entire face also dehumanizes us to some extent.
We are also tactile beings. Our mental well-being relies upon engaging in physical touch with others… as appropriately dictated by a given society. It’s in our nature to reach out and provide physical support and affection with others in many situations. Our salutations most often engaged some sort of physical contact before the COVID era came along.
This almost feels like a cataclysmic shift we saw after 9/11. Our way of life forever changed moving forward after the horrible tragedy. It’s likely there will be major changes in how we relate to one other in a physical sense moving forward in the COVID era. These types of disruptive changes have social and behavioral consequences we have only started to observe.
Sean McDermott was right for being most concerned about how social distancing requirements might impair the development of team chemistry when he spoke about it in his last press conference prior to training camp. McDermott is a psychologist at heart and has a deep understanding of human behavior. He gets the importance of spiritual development and how it impacts the emotional growth of a team more than most coaches I’ve ever observed.
So it must have driven him off the rails when the pandemic hit and he realized the enormous challenge in changing social behavior but minimizing the effect on team chemistry. I’m pretty sure McDermott probably researched every dissertation ever done on team chemistry and figured out some unique ways to mitigate the cataclysmic changes in how they conduct themselves as a professional football team.
Can you really foster the brotherhood via Zoom?
When players are constantly distracted by having to think about social boundaries in a completely different way… instantly… how will that affect their performance on the field? Players who are highly passionate and expressive on the field like Josh Allen will have to respond in a completely different manner after a big play.
I would think offensive line play might be more impacted than any other position group in this respect. These are five big men who must become one… mentally as well as physically because they must operate in synchrony. So how do you split your brain into being aware of social distancing while at the same time mentally melding how you physically perform?
This entire season will be like no other for so many reasons. I’ll miss being at training camp for all the opportunity it provided to study players behavior when they think no one is really watching them :) Like McDermott, I’ll be sweating bullets about how all these social distancing rules are going to impact team chemistry.
You can be sure I’ll crank out the babble when I see something interesting happening in this regard along the way. Strap yourself in folks. It’s going to be an interesting ride. Giddyup.
Editor’s babble: Let’s hope we get to the season in the first place. Holy cats these are strange times. You can find me babbling on Twitter @RobynMundyWYO.