A couple of weeks ago, I attended two virtual press conferences for sports teams here at the University of Arizona. I did not expect them to be any different, as I have covered many press conferences before this. While I was at the first press conference, one of the players was asked a question about watching game film, and their answer shocked me.
The athlete told the reporter that they do not watch game film on other teams. The athlete even went as far as to say that in all their years at the university, they have never watched film. When the press conference was over, I was in total disbelief of what I had just heard. How can you not watch film on other teams? The reason the film is there is so your team can gain an advantage against your opponent.
It was refreshing to attend the next press conference though because the athlete I talked to spoke of the importance of watching film on other teams. Since the athlete brought it up first, I leaped at the opportunity and asked them if they thought watching film was important. Not only did the athlete say it was important to watch film on other teams but themselves as well. The stark contrast between the two athletes baffled me. How could one of them be so on point and the other be so far off?
I never played sports beyond high school, but as someone who has watched sports my whole life, I know one of the keys to victory is studying your opponent. All the greatest athletes I grew up watching stressed the importance of film.
Let us start with my hero and favorite athlete of all time, Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant. I loved him so much and I miss him every day. While he was here, Bryant would talk about how he was able to understand his opponents through film. Once his opponent brought the ball to a specific part of the key, Bryant already knew what they were going to do.
It is what made him one of the best defenders of his time. Bryant would also watch film on himself because he knew that if he had weaknesses, his opponents would know too. Bryant’s second home was the film room. In his book “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play,” Bryant has an entire page dedicated to watching film.
“From a young age — a very young age — I devoured film and watched everything I could get my hands on,” Bryant wrote in his book. “It was always fun to watch, study and ask the most important question: Why?”
It was because of this hard work and dedication that the Mamba Mentality became a real way of thinking. Even as he got older and played in the NBA longer, Bryant’s mindset did not change.
“The biggest element that changed over time, however, as I went from watching what was there to watching for what was missing and should have been there,” Bryant said in his book. “I went from watching what happened to what could have and should have happened. Film study eventually became imagining alternatives, counters, options, in addition to the finite details of why some actions work and others don’t work.”
It was this dedication and determination to watch film that turned Bryant into a 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA Finals MVP, one regular-season MVP, 18x All-Star, 4x All-Star Game MVP, 2x Olympic Gold Medalist, 11x All-NBA First Team, 2x All-NBA Second Team and 2x All-NBA Third Team.
If that is not enough, even though it should be, I will discuss one more athlete that has also made a second home in the film room. That athlete is none other than quarterback Tom Brady.
Unless you have lived under a rock for 20 years, everyone knows who Tom Brady is. I have written about him a few times and how I think he is the G.O.A.T., but now I will explain a bit as to why I know that.
Brady was not desired by NFL teams in the draft. That is why he went No. 199 overall in the sixth round back in 2000. The former New England Patriot knew that he needed to make up for his low draft stock, so he hit the film room. It became a daily routine with him and his former head coach Bill Belichick. In an interview with the Boston Herald, Brady mentioned that even when the team had a day off, he and Belichick were in the film room.
“I love it. It’s what I love to do,” Brady told the Boston Herald. “It’s all football, it’s all preparation. We go a while, an hour, two hours. It’s just a lot of talking about the opponent. It’s a lot of great insight. Everyone sees something different.”
This interview took place right before Brady and the Patriots were set to face the Chargers in the AFC Divisional round in 2018. Brady and the Patriots crushed them 41-28. Even after the beat-down he gave the Chargers, Brady headed straight for the film room to prepare for the Chiefs.
“It’s a get-ahead day. It’s talking about the opponent, their strengths and weaknesses, things we’ve seen,” Brady told the Boston Herald. “We’ve both done a lot of film study, so we compare what we’ve seen, and what we think, and how we want to prepare going forward.”
Brady went on to defeat the Chiefs and then the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53. Brady accomplished a lot because he watched film. How much did he accomplish?
Brady is a 7x Super Bowl Champion, 5x Super Bowl MVP, 3x regular season MVP, 2x offensive player of the year, 14x Pro-Bowler, 3x First-Team All-Pro, 2x Second-Team All-Pro and 4x NFL passing touchdown leader.
Not bad for a sixth-round pick who does nothing but watch film.
I hope that the athlete I spoke of earlier changes their mind about watching film. The team that the athlete is on has not won a championship in over 10 years, and this year they have a real shot at doing it. However, if their opponents are anything like Bryant or Brady, they already know their strengths and weaknesses. If those athletes do not get into the film room and study the best teams in the country, I guarantee they will have no chance at winning a title.
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Sean (he/him) is a business administration major from California. He enjoys playing video games and watching Disney+ in his free time.