By Sophie Stephens. Originally published on wsspaper.com.
The rules are simple: be completely silent.
No audible conversations. No getting up and walking around. Just sit, relax and take a few minutes to get a clear head and prepare for the night.
This is what head football coach Garrett Hartwig expects for 15 minutes. This allotted time, deemed “quiet time,” happens before each game to allow players to mentally prepare themselves.
The 49 varsity players sit in the cardio or weight room as far away from each other as possible to avoid any distractions. There is no verbal communication allowed. The players have the 15 minutes to themselves to clear their minds and get ready to play that night.
“Quiet means different things to people,” Hartwig said. “[The room] is just dead silent to walk into, but players listen to music, look at social media [or] some actually do homework … They may communicate through text messaging or social media, but there’s no talking whatsoever. Some students and players take a 15 minute catnap, some just sit and think. It’s just a period that’s completely dedicated to them for 15 minutes before the chaos of the game.”
Hartwig implemented quiet time for the varsity football players two years ago. He got the idea from his time playing college football, where his coaches allotted time for the team to mentally prepare for the games.
After the 2016 season varsity team tried and enjoyed quiet time, Hartwig made the 15 minute period a mandatory part of the team’s Friday night routine for subsequent seasons. Hartwig believes the most important part of the personal quiet time is the repetitive routine and that it is to credit for the football team’s success in recent years.
“I think preparing for a football game or any athletic competition is about routine, and I think that the body is triggered for physical exertion through activity and consistency and this [routine] is part of it,” Hartwig said. “The more consistent your routine is, the better you will perform. Your body goes through a process of preparing, and this is a time where the body gets all the way down to a completely relaxed state and the mind hopefully as well. You’re hopefully feeling and thinking at the highest level you can for competition.”
Varsity fullback and linebacker Will Hoeft ’20 says that quiet time does not personally help him play better during a game. However, Hoeft believes it is important for the team to have enough time to get themselves prepared for a game and get into a relaxed and focused mindset, whether it be a home or away game.
“I think that football is a pretty mental game sometimes and it just requires a lot of time to get yourself in the right mind frame to go out and do your job and do it well,” Hoeft said.
Although some players may not credit quiet time to better performance in a game, they do accept the fact that quiet time is a required part of the Friday night games and use the 15 minutes to do whatever they personally need to do to get focused.
“It’s not a big factor into how we play, but I think it just helps everybody focus, to just know that they [have] to get ready, and when that ball is kicked on that first down kickoff that they [have] to go,” said running back and defensive end Xarminto Lubuelo ’19. “After quiet time, everybody is in their own zone and getting ready how they get ready … After it’s over you just go get your pads on and get ready for the game.”
While quiet time is a ritual for the team, much of the student body is not familiar with it. This has led to some misunderstandings concerning the team’s schedule, routine and other activities.
One common misconception about quiet time is that the varsity football team gets released from class after sixth period to participate in quiet time. However, the football players are actually released after sixth period to have ample time to eat before the game. Since a large majority of the team has seventh period open during football season, their early release does not actually affect their school work. Because of the way both the school and the football schedules are set up, if the team were to be released at 4:00 p.m. and start practice at 4:30 p.m., there would be no time for players to eat before the game.
The conflicting schedules also mean that the athletes do not have ample time to mentally prepare for the game. Players that do have seventh period classes would leave the school day and go directly to practice. According to Hoeft, this would mean no time for eating, getting organized or going through other processes of preparing themselves, like getting their uniforms ready and doing quiet time.
Although the players are released early from school, the team takes this time seriously. Players utilize the extra time away from class well, as this time is a vital part of their game day routine.
“When we get out, everybody knows it’s not really a time to fool around even though we [have] time before the game,” Lubuelo said. “It’s a time to get your stuff ready, get your protein or nutrients … I don’t think anyone takes advantage of it and just goofs off.”
Many students at West have demonstrated confusion towards the football team’s schedule, citing that other sports are not released early for home games or meets, prompting arguments of special treatment to the football team. However, both Hartwig and varsity football players say it’s fair for the team to take time out of the day to get ready for the game, including eating before the long nights.
“I guess every sport is different and when it all boils down to it, all the sports get different things that other sports don’t,” said Hoeft. “It makes sense why people are a little upset but … [for] wrestling, sometimes we get team dinners and sometimes we get charter buses with a lot of space on them. For wrestling we’ll miss a couple of days of school to go to a tournament out of town. For baseball we get sandwiches up to the game. I feel like there is special treatments each sport gets that some other sports don’t.”
Although football does receive extra time for home games that other sports may not, the time is a vital part of the team’s friday night routine. Leaving school early allows the team to prepare both physically and mentally for the challenging night ahead.
“It takes a while to get ready mentally and there are a lot of logistics that go into football that people don’t know about,” said Hartwig. “I mean, we have walkthroughs, we have quiet time, we have mental checks just to make sure that players remember game plan situations … and it may sound trivial but it’s helped us to be successful over the years.”