Ah yes, CFL training camps open this week as it is the beginning of the chase for the 101st Grey Cup on November 24 in Regina. Of all the weeks of the season, these may be the three most important.
In many ways, training camp is about selfish football. It is a time you can have a mercenary mentality and it is understood and completely accepted that this is the time. The reason being, for players to be successful in the last week in June, you have to pull together and work together because if you don't, nothing improves. But up until that time, you have not made the team, you've only been given an opportunity to make the team.
As players, you have to show something; a flash, a consistency, something that separates yourself from the masses. Even for established players, they don't have to prove you can effectively play more that you must re-prove you can play.
The thing about pro football training camp is that it is a necessary evil. It is a time where you set rosters, develop an identity and find out what you have. For players, it is high stress, sometimes boring, others times very gratifying and at all times, very physical.
Even at this time when teams are limited to only one practice in pads, the amount of running, lifting, jumping and just about anything is done at its most intense and grinding level. And all the while, you have to be learning and evaluating whether you're progressing or regressing as a player. But you have to go through it.
Football is about the co-ordination of people with very specific assignments and adjustments. To master so many people doing so many things under pressure, you need to use repetition to your advantage. That takes weeks to master and sometimes it is not mastered at all.
The other abstract purpose of training came is to toughen up. Physically, it happens by the natural increase in pain tolerance. What hurt significantly on the first day, you don't even react to by Week 3.
Mentally, it is about concepts and terminology. Each playbook on offence, defence and special teams has a stated purpose of performance and terminology all its own. It has to be learned to a point that not only you know it, but you know you know with clarity, so there is less thinking and more instinctive reaction.
Emotionally, to be a good player, you must be able to turn it 'on' to play, and of equal value, turn it 'off' to live. What is 'it'? That controlled aggression where you enjoy punishing an opponent when appropriate and know when having those desires is inappropriate.
But for all involved, it is a time of working to win; to develop a memory and enhance revenue so you get as much as you can out of the game because in the end, the game usually gets you.
Right now, every CFL team has a genuine sense of optimism and they should because the most important aspect in football is team health. If you can stay healthy, you can win and since that is 100 per cent unpredictable, it makes sense to feel good about your chances to obtain that goal.
Pro football training camp is a lot of things but it is how you perceive it that is important. If, as a player, you see its purpose, you will do well. After all, with one more training camp done, its one less to experience in a career.