Last week marked the start of a new season for most NFL teams. Since the end of last season, every team in the NFL has focused on one goal: winning the Super Bowl. During the off season every team has worked feverishly to improve strengths and strengthen weaknesses. Coaches burn the midnight oil developing winning strategies, while players whip themselves into topnotch condition.

As the regular season approaches, ask any NFL team about their chances, and you're certain to hear universal optimism about their team's improvement over last season. No NFL team enters the regular season believing they don't have an excellent chance of winning the Super Bowl. By the opening game's kickoff, the buildup and hype have reached fever pitch. And then it's time to "Play Ball!"

That's when reality hits—with one team the winner, the other team the loser. High pre-season expectations are either reinforced or dashed with the first game. Today, throughout the NFL, fans are either rejoicing in the "thrill of victory" or wallowing in the "agony of defeat," a pattern that will occur throughout the entire season. But regardless of how passionate any of us might be about "our" teams, football is still only a game.

In many ways, SWAT is similar to the NFL—with one vital difference. Our "game" is deadly real: winners survive; losers don't. As much preparation as NFL teams put into becoming winners, SWAT teams must put in even greater effort to win every "game." Yet, no SWAT team I'm aware of has the unlimited budget and time to train that all NFL teams have.

So, how can SWAT teams get ready to win every "game" they play throughout the entire year? For the answer, I suggest we look at how successful NFL teams stay that way. It's no surprise that many NFL teams openly pattern their offenses and defenses after Super Bowl winners.

SWAT teams should do the same thing, and look to those teams with reputations of being consistently "good." Study what makes them good, and why they're consistent winners. Then apply the secrets of success to your team, but tweak it according to your situation. Whether part or full time, the goal is develop your team into a consistent winner.

Consistently "good" SWAT teams abound throughout the U.S. and Canada, and most of these teams will readily share their "secrets of success" with other SWAT teams. That's because, unlike the NFL, our opponents are the bad guys, not other teams. One of the best ways to learn from other teams is to spend time with them in person. You'll get a firsthand view of what they do and how/why they do it. Ride along as an observer if possible. Eventually, you might receive training from them or be able to train with them. Either way, the experience will be memorable and valuable, and will benefit your own team.

What should you be looking for with "good" teams? All "good" SWAT teams are trained, experienced, skilled, confident, knowledgeable, tacticians, disciplined team players, and working as a single unit. But above all, they're the "real deal"—professionals. What they're not is arrogant, undisciplined overconfident, individuals, or show-offs, not on the same page, or with "attitudes."

How can you tell "good" teams from others? One way is to watch for smoothness, fluid motion, no wasted motion, quiet confidence, working as one team. This takes time, training, and experience to develop. A good example was a SWAT TV show I watched recently, where the team rule was new troops weren't allowed to be on entry until they completed a full year on the team.

My own team had a similar rule, plus requiring new entry team members to start at the rear, then work their way toward the front on subsequent entries. Only after numerous entries, and close scrutiny by veteran team members were they OK'd to be on point, first through the door. However, this was only valid for warrant service entries, with hostage/barricade entries reserved only for the most experienced troops.

My guess is every "good" SWAT team has a similar rule, because experience is so highly valued. It's called "paying dues," developing trust, teamwork, and tradition that will be passed down to future new troops.

This is little different from the NFL, where most rookies have played football since childhood. Even the most highly touted rookies pay their dues early on, until they're given the opportunity to "play ball".

As you watch your favorite NFL teams this season, play close attention to what makes them winners or losers. And always remember: "On any given day, any team can beat any other team."

Author

Robert O'Brien
Robert O'Brien

Robert O'Brien

A member of the TREXPO Advisory Board, Sgt. Robert "Bob" O'Brien Cleveland SWAT Ret. is the founder of the R.J. O'Brien Group Ltd., a law enforcement training and consulting service that advises and trains a number of local, state, and federal SWAT teams.

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A member of the TREXPO Advisory Board, Sgt. Robert "Bob" O'Brien Cleveland SWAT Ret. is the founder of the R.J. O'Brien Group Ltd., a law enforcement training and consulting service that advises and trains a number of local, state, and federal SWAT teams.

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