For those who don’t know me, I like to stay extremely active. One of the hobbies that turned professional several years ago was when I stepped into was photojournalism. Over seven seasons I have been credentialed at The Ohio State University that not only feeds my love for Buckeye football, but also watching the “team” concept that athletics and firefighting share.
Unless you don’t follow college football, you know that Urban Meyer took the helm of the football program at Ohio State and brought with him many changes and set a new bar to be reached by all involved. During the ESPN all access 2012 at a meal, the team is “given” over to Coach Meyer by Coach Marotti and Meyer speaks about what he wants and expects. In brief you could use a similar speech to our new recruits and our firefighters across the board.
He starts out the speech talking about the 130 teams across the United States that are starting their season and how in 16 weeks there is one champion that will raise their arms with the trophy. He speaks of wanting a “hungry team” that can’t wait to get out there, players and new coaches that might not have gotten out there before and trying to make a name for them. Coach Meyer finishes with this.
“I want an angry team, I want a pissed off football team. I want a team that has a little chip on their shoulder. Maybe something has been taken from you, maybe it hasn’t. I want a team that’s going to go get it. You’re the Ohio State Buckeyes. You’re an angry football team, you’ve got an angry staff, you’ve got a bunch of guys that are getting ready to start a journey and we start it tomorrow at 5:00am. You’re a hungry football team and I’m proud to be your coach.”
How does this tie football to firefighting you ask? What if you started off every fire academy, fire training, recruit class, and every time you sat down with a newly appointed member and gave them a similar statement? You not only set the bar high from the get go, but you also show the enthusiasm for your firehouse and your department.
Fire departments are all over the world and when it comes to fire and rescue it is your team against the incident. While in football they have months to fight to be the best, we have minutes or seconds at times. Our “games” are hopefully short, but ours are life and death, there is no instant reply, no challenging the call, and no overtime to win it. Every day is essentially the “big game”, the championship, and the Super Bowl all wrapped up in one.
I have the privilege to serve with a department like this. A department that is angry, is hungry, and pushed to be better than the best out there. We have earned the name “cowboys” not because of stupidity or shenanigans, but for what I feel is leading the way. Our people know our jobs and when you call us we are there to work and not be “yard shepherds” as I’ve often heard firefighters described that stand out front. We treat it as our fire wherever we go and want the best outcome possible for everyone involved.
Hungry football players, hungry firefighters, I have been blessed to know many and serve with some. Hungry firefighters want to get it, want to live it, want to get it done, and want to get more! The best find a balance where they manage family and brotherhood and keep both sides happy and involved. Hungry firefighters seek out training; they strive to be the best not just during the run/call, but in their downtime as well.
Angry firefighters pissed off firefighters. While some might think that is a bad thing it really is about the mindset going into the situation. They play to win, they play through the whistle, and they play to be the best. I have several of this type on my fire department and it is a pleasure to see when they work. On a recent search and rescue the sound and the look was evident on a team we had going through our training house. They were a different level of confident, but not boastful, they meant business. As a captain and myself threw different challenges at them on the fly they continued to love every second of it and fight through until they achieved their mission.
Just as important to having these traits and characteristics in your department is letting them know. Encourage them and praise them. All too often around houses I’ve seen the memo or heard the conversation about what was done wrong or how bad something went, but not nearly enough time is spent on letting them know “hey, that was a damn good job..”
Whether you are a probie, a line firefighter, an officer, or the chief, we are all responsible for the morale, wellbeing, and the championship status of the department and our house. As a team we control our destiny and the outcome of situations. A situation didn’t go to hell because of a single “new guy”, nor did the entire success rest upon one individual. Success on a grab or a hell of a knockdown can come down to pre-planning, training, a great size up, a great IC, a pump operator that can draft water from a sponge, and a hungry crew to attack and defeat the fire. We all are a part of it!
Be hungry my brothers…