Submarines, Air Assault, and The Swedish Olympic Soccer Team

Sub and Soccer Goal1

Clip Art from Free Sources – Illustration by Chris Greco

Strange title, no?  What if I were to tell you that all three of the subjects in the title are interrelated?  What if I were to tell you that something practiced repeatedly makes you so proficient that you will repeat it in your sleep?

Let’s start with submarines.  There was a movie in the 1950s about a submarine that had to go into battle with very little odds of survival.  The captain, a survivor of a previous battle that resulted in his submarine being sunk by an enemy vessel, had nightmares about the encounter and, being given a new command, had the crew constantly drilling day and night, even timing them.  The crew was becoming almost mutinous because the captain refused to tell them why they were doing this, and the first officer had a hard time keeping the crew in line, even though he was loyal to the captain.  Well, the day came that an enemy vessel was pursuing the submarine and the captain ordered the drill.  The crew, not even thinking, went through the drill and fired torpedoes on time and sunk the enemy vessel.  The drill paid off, and the rest of the movie played on that success.  If you are interested, the movie is called “Run Silent, Run Deep” and has in the cast some of the most famous movie stars of my era including Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry), Cary Grant (Gone with the Wind), and Don Rickles (Toy Story, voice).  You can find out more at

Now we make a smooth segue from submarines to Air Assault School, run by the US Army (see how I did that?).  I was a student at this school in the early 1990s and can attest that, over 20 years later, I still remember at least two things from that school – tying a Swiss Seat and the “Guide Hand” vs “Brake Hand.”  To lay the groundwork for this portion of the article, a Swiss Seat is a rope that you tie around your waist and between your legs to support you when you are rappelling.  Without a good Swiss Seat, the metal ring connecting you to the lifesaving rappel rope will disconnect and you will fall to your death.  Okay, now that we have that concept straight, on to the article.

We tied Swiss Seats several times a day and had to meet a 60 second time limit.  We worked hard at this and finally the test day came for tying a Swiss Seat and the instructor said we had 90 seconds to tie them.  We looked at him in disbelief.  He just smiled and said “Now doesn’t this seem easy?”

The second thing that was drummed into our heads was the “Guide Hand” and the “Brake Hand” in rappelling.  The guide hand was normally your weak hand that you used to guide yourself down the rope (you do not grip it tightly or you have BAD blisters – take it from someone who did just that).  The brake hand was your strong hand that you used behind you to speed up or slow down or stop.  It is essential so that you do not drop uncontrolled to your death (notice how everything had a life/death ring to it?)

At night, after the class, I would be sleeping and suddenly away in the rappel position with my guide hand and brake hand in the proper position.  I do not do this now, but I can immediately take that rappel position if someone were to yell for me to do that.  I learned tons about Army training from that course.  You were trained not to think about a situation but react the way you were trained.  Fewer mistakes that way.  You don’t want to over think it, otherwise your hesitation could mean a life (maybe yours!).

Now, after that dissertation, we move again smoothly to the Swedish Olympic Soccer Team which recently earned a Silver Medal in the Rio Olympics (  What they did to their competition to get to the Gold Medal round was very similar to the two examples above.  The Swedish team played defense intensively with their first two opponents and then won on penalty kicks.  It is very evident that they practiced this maneuver, ensuring they would win on the penalty kicks.  They were so assured of this tactic that they played to tie, not to win.  When they played the Germans in the final, they turned to offense since a Swedish defender accidentally sent a ball into her own goal.  Now the Germans had the upper hand and hung on with their own defense to win the game.  Unfortunately, putting so many people on defense has its downside, mainly setting up a “pinball” effect with balls sent into the defense.  Notwithstanding, the Swedish Team won their other matches based on the training that they had received (in my opinion).  That is what training is all about, using tactics that are proven solid and implementing those tactics when the time is right.  The Swedish Team did this and, as a result, earned a Silver Medal.  Again in my opinion, their only hesitation was not using the tactic consistently against the Germans, or maybe the Germans looked at the “films” of the other contests and adjusted their tactics.  Either way, the Swedish Team should not feel bad at all about their accomplishment.  They are the second best in the world.

Learn, Offer, Value, and Educate (LOVE)



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