Football for Player and Spectator/Chapter 13
|←Signals|| Football for Player and Spectator by
|Photographs of formations and diagrams of plays→|
The evolution of football from the crude form in which the game began to the present stage of perfection it has attained rests almost entirely on the development of team play. Where originally one man, relying almost entirely on his own efforts, bore the brunt of his own particular play, whether offensive or defensive, now the efforts of ten others are also exerted to the same end for which he is working.
The players of the old school, mighty men though they were, and equal, beyond a doubt, in individual ability to the men who are playing the game today, would be helpless when confronted with the systematized attack and defense of an eleven with anything like their natural ability, coached in the finer points of the game which have been evolved by the football students of modern times.
To the perfection of team play, which has become necessary in a successful eleven of the present day, is due, no doubt, the tremendous strides which the game has made in popularity. The spectator who appreciates the finer points of the game glories in an eleven which works together, and the members of the team themselves are welded into closer harmony by the feeling of mutual obligation which the team play brings with it. The confidence that is felt by the man chosen to bear the brunt of the play, when he knows that his comrades will be there to help him, each in his assigned place, contributes to the efforts of an eleven the ideal feeling of team spirit and makes each game increasingly attractive to those who participate in the play on the field.
To strengthen the impression in the mind of each of his ten comrades that he himself may be relied on to do his part should form the foremost endeavor of every member of the team. He must show the others that, when the emergency comes, as it does come in every play, he is doing his duty. With such zeal firmly instilled in the mind of each man, football reaches its highest state of perfection.
The center and guards must enter upon their task in each game with a unified purpose. To take care of one's immediate opponent should not be the sole aim of each man. He should, in addition, be able and anxious to extend to his comrades the aid which they may need. Should one of the opposing trio stand out above the others as a dangerous man, two men should combine their efforts that he may be taken care of, instead of shifting the entire responsibility on his immediate team mate. The same relations should exist between the tackles and the ends. The backs must return, to their utmost ability, the protection which they are receiving from their line, by a combined aggressiveness on attack and a support on defense that will make the members of the line confident that their efforts are not in vain.
Each man must be on the alert to discover instantly any hint regarding the enemy's tactics which may be of benefit to his own side. The eyes of the captain cannot be everywhere at once and often a shift in the position of one of the opponents, a tendency to precede a play by a glance, a false start or some other indication, unseen by the rest, may give a premonition which, if immediately communicated by signal, may prove of inestimable value.
On offense, team play has developed along the lines of interference and helping the runner. As soon as a play is called each man should be ready to fulfil one certain purpose. If in the line, he must block his man long enough to make sure that the opponent cannot break through and spoil the play before it has gotten fairly started. Then he must place himself, if possible, ahead of the play, where he will be in a position to help the runner, either by warding off tacklers or assisting him to shake off men who may be in the act of bringing him down.
If a back or a member of the attacking column, the player should not confine his efforts to warding off from the runner the man whom he is there to care for. He should do this, of course, and after it is done, should endeavor to rejoin the runner in his course down the field, there to take care of further attack, thus making an even longer gain possible.
If the runner, he should be calculating with lightning speed the openings which are being made for him by his interference. When he has passed in safety the first line of defense he must study how best to avail himself of the interference that remains, slowing down, if necessary, to allow one of his comrades to fall into place, or charging intrepidly at the least thoroughly guarded point, should his efforts be unassisted and there be no prospect of reinforcements.
There is no feature of football more beautiful than a long run in circumstances like these. The rush of the attacking phalanx against the rampart of bone and brawn; the melting away of the interference as it disposes of the men in the path of the runner; the emerging of the man with the ball into the open field and the judgment which he exercises, combined with his own strength and speed, call for the very highest ability.
In an instant the good player will take an inventory of the situation. Far out from the line of scrimmage, running to his aid, he perceives one of his comrades. In front of him, charging with outstretched arms, is a hostile tackler. A dodge, and the foe misses his clutch by an inch. The time is short but the interferer is now close up. Ahead is another member of the opposing team. The runner, his plan formed, slows down, circles a bit, and has acquired a comrade to help him. Combined they charge the approaching enemy. While the interferer blocks his man the runner circles once more. It may now be a clear field to a touchdown that he sees before him. Only his own speed is necessary in this case to keep him ahead of the pursuing members of the opposing team. It is team play that has made it possible.
How many times it occurs that, when the line has been successfully assaulted and a runner penetrates into the enemy's territory, one of his comrades who has also broken through is able to grasp the man with the ball and carry him out of the arms of the tacklers into the enemy's country still further! It is team play.
While the development of modern team play is more plainly evident in attack than defense, the latter department of the game has also been greatly improved by the discovery of methods through which combinations can be made to offset the efforts of a systematic attack. Especially when a play is hinted at in advance, as is invariably the case when a kick is to be made, combination of forces at one point may result in a counter attack which will nullify the plan. Some member of the line may be pushed through by his comrades right into the path of a play, or the point at which an attack is directed may be suddenly strengthened in order to meet it successfully. It is team play again.
Even in the kicking department, which still remains the closest approach to individual effort retained by the game in its advanced stage, team play is always prominent. Of what use is a competent kicker unless he receives an accurate pass from his center? His best efforts may be unavailing, for he may never be able to get the ball away. Even when successfully kicked, the ball may be brought back by the opponents to a distance which may nullify the value of the effort, unless the other members of the kicker's team are able to tell in advance the direction in which the ball is to be sent, the distance and height designed for its flight and the other data necessary to guide them swiftly down the field to recover its possession, if possible, and, if not, to tackle the man who has caught the ball, before he is able to bring it back any appreciable distance. Once more, this is team work.
Eleven men make up a football team now, as in the early days of the game, but modern requirements make it necessary that these eleven men play constantly to one end. If one of them lags, errs or is inefficient, it is almost impossible for the others to get results, no matter how well directed may be their efforts. Individual strength, wit, courage and agility must be there, but they must weld themselves into a chain that makes every advantage possessed by one of the members of the eleven a common asset--one that is used to its utmost and on every possible opportunity. For the last time, it is team play and only team play that will yield success, and no eleven can get along without it.