The Atlanta Steam playbook consists of at least 90 plus offensive plays. That’s before you begin to count any of the many defensive plays, schemes, and formations. The offensive formations are exotic, the plays are bold and the execution is precise. They run a variation of huddle, no huddle and hurry up offense. They have offensive and defensive, speed and jumbo player personnel packages. The speed package is faster, smaller and more effective in small areas. The jumbo package is stronger, taller and more effective in the open field.
This complex approach to the game could result in more quick thinking and less instinctive football reactions, but it seems Coach Ray Norell has thought of that as well. The play calling is simplified with the entire offense wearing a wristband cheat sheet, similar to something Tom Brady wears on game day with the array of colors, numbers, codes and tabs. The players are constantly urged to “know [their] job, see the situation, and react to it.” Coach Lance Ancar can often be heard screaming from the sidelines, “Analysis leads to paralysis!”
The use of this concept is particularly suited for this team, but not for the reason that you might imagine. Generally you see this type of wristband system when there is a lack of football knowledge on the roster. The charts, codes, numbers and colors are used to simplify the playbook and give players a beginner’s advantage. However, in this case the cheat sheets serve an entirely different purpose.
With all of the previous football from various different leagues and levels, players often find themselves “trying to do too much.” Elite athletes often try to do a teammate’s job during a given play while abandoning their own assignments. This system allows the player to focus solely on their job, execute it, and quickly move on to the next play.
A system like this did not develop by accident. On the first day of Atlanta Steam practice, when asked what type of team he is looking to build, Head Coach Ray Norell responded, “They must be smart. [Being] fast, tough, and strong is good, but if they can’t learn the material, there is not much we can do with them. We have to give them a standard and hold them to it just like you would any team.”
From the looks of things, Coach Ray got exactly what he wanted. Of the 20 athletes on Atlanta’s roster, there are at least 15 college/technical degrees. While some athletes hold multiple degrees, these resumes include MBA’s, one MBS, and several BS’s.
During a practice this week, a play was run that resulted in a long touchdown pass. I was standing next to coach Ray in a box seat position when I noted there was another player open on the scoring play. He quickly signaled down to the quarterback, and without a huddle, in a matter of 20 seconds, there was a second long touchdown on the same play. I was thoroughly impressed. This team does not let you pick your own poison. They look to be the kind of team that wants to dictate the manner in which they beat you.
For tickets to Atlanta Steam homes games visit www.ticketmaster.com, call 770-813-7600 , or visit the Arena at Gwinnett Center box office.
Omaha Heart @ Atlanta Steam – Saturday, April 13th
Cleveland Crush @ Atlanta Steam – Saturday, May 18th