I’ve spoken often over the last several years about the direct correlation between football and firefighting when it comes to teamwork, tactics, family, ethics, and many other aspects. As an avid Ohio State Buckeye fan and photojournalist I’ve had the opportunity to look into that even further than most any fan gets to and let me experience how they make it work. As I read my Twitter feed the other day I ran across the video of Coach Kerry Coombs as he lit up the faces while speaking to some upcoming recruits and it really drove it home and had to share some thoughts
The video can be found on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYSGFeoh_as
First, let me say that I’m not saying you have to be an Ohio State fan to understand this video. In fact I’m not even saying you have to enjoy football to understand what Coach Coombs is trying to get across to everyone in that room. Take away the football, take away the Ohio State logos and listen to the words as a firefighter, an officer, a rookie, or a veteran member of the fire service. What if we brought that type of family environment back into the firehouse? What if harbored that type of attitude toward brotherhood and going somewhere? Most importantly, what if we as departments recruited our firefighters with that type of mentality and attitude?
Over the years the process of becoming a firefighter has changed, whether you joining a volunteer or career department the changes have surmounted that we are falling behind in certain areas. In the past 14 years I’ve seen the process of recruitment, training, and retention change that we aren’t always looking in the right directions. We look at scores, numbers, statistics, times, and yes I’ll throw it out there we look at what they look like. The things that too many are looking at are creating departments that are functional, but not to the level that their program can be. We put a badge on someone that might be five seconds faster, but a shitty ass attitude and turn away the person that has the best interest of the department, your members, and family in mind that will not give up. We can teach people to be firefighters, but there are certain things such as commitment, drive, good attitudes, and being a functional part of the family that don’t come from the classroom.
As Coach Coombs put it during the recruitment speech above,
“We don’t just look for great players, we look for great families and men who have been raised in the right way. Because at the end of the day in this lockerroom when you look to the locker on the right and to the left you want to know that that man has the same feeling, the same care, love, and respect for you that you have for him.”
If you’re a part of the recruitment or interview process of your department with candidates, take that role seriously and don’t be the mundane one around the table. Take the initiative, be fired up and make sure that you and your department are making good decisions. That potential candidate is in front of you selling themselves on why they should be chosen amongst the few. Just as important, you as a part of that process need to be selling your department on why they should be privileged enough to strap up and do work and be a member. Don’t just look at the lines, learn to read between them and find what positive and negative qualities they potentially have.
Be safe my brothers.