Dr. Palmer knew a good practice when he saw one
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
I took a course at The University of Alabama called "Foundations of Education." It was a class that covered the origins and progression of public education in the modern world.
I will never forget Dr. Palmer, the instructor for that course. He was one of the more practical and down-to-earth professors I ever encountered during my time at The University.
On one particular day, the class discussion was concerning how humans learn and how public schools should structure their classrooms to fit this purpose. Dr. Palmer made the statement that it should be mandatory for College of Education students to attend one of Coach Bryant's practice session.
A little smile came on my face, as I knew the point he was trying to make.
He went on to say as you witness the one-and-a-half to two-hour practice sessions, you will see the most intense teaching and learning process found at The University.
I could see there were those in the class who doubted what Dr. Palmer was saying, and they probably were thinking, "Oh, this guy is just some big football fan."
But, as Dr. Palmer went on to explain the complexity and intensity of the instruction that takes place during one of these practice sessions, I could tell other students were becoming more curious.
A typical practice session under Coach Bryant was planned down to the very tiny detail, and anything that made the practice session as real as possible was included.
Details such as the color of the opposing team's jersey or the number on a particular player's jersey was worn by the scout team. We often had the football soaked in water to simulate wet weather. Crowd noise would be pumped out of speakers so we could get used to the noise.
We even had a tiger's roar cast across the practice field the week before the LSU game.
The coaching staff spent hours planning each practice session and every coach had a copy of the plan. Each coach knew exactly what his group was to do and where they were supposed to do it.
A daily roster of first team, second team and so on was posted each day. This roster could change from day to day according to the coaching staff's evaluation of one's performance the day before.
Each practice session was divided into timed periods ranging in length from 10 minutes to an hour. No one had the authority to change the time of any period except Coach Bryant.
Sometimes the practice plan had a period, usually the last, which had an "NT" for the amount of time for that period. This was something that brought fear and dread into the hearts of players because the "NT" stood for "No Time." This meant that the period would go on as long as Coach Bryant wished, usually causing extreme exhaustion on the part of the players.
Thomas Field, which consists of five, full-sized football fields, was divided into areas and each team was to report to
See GRAMMER, B-3
a specific area to perform the task of each individual period. A loud whistle would blow, ending each period, and players sprinted to the next area for the next period – no rest time.
Because of the planning and intensity of these practice sessions, I believe we accomplished more on the practice field in two hours than others could with much longer practice sessions. Coaches nationwide worked to copy Coach Bryant's system.
During that spring I took Foundations of Education, a "field trip" was planned by Dr. Palmer to visit Thomas Field, so the entire class could observe the "intense learning process" he had been speaking of.
I didn't accompany the class on the field trip – I and the other Tide players were the field trip.