IT AIN’T EASY being in camp for long periods of time.
Now, of course moving from one luxury hotel to another and living the life of a professional athlete is no hardship. But that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult to keep your mind in the best condition to reach the highest level performance a player is capable of.
Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
From simply working with each other, players suddenly have to live, eat and even try to chill out a little bit with the same group of faces, the same voices, the same jokes that were funny when you heard them tell it two weeks ago.
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Joe Schmidt has planned for this particular side challenge from a long way out. In the early part of pre-season there was a brief departure from the ‘Team Ireland’ perception as players stuck with their province for the early part of pre-season. More recently, the camp have broken routine in camp by having meet-and-greet evenings with characters ranging from Christy Moore to Usain Bolt.
The 31 players head across the Irish Sea this week and the coaching staff will have a rigorous plan to help stave off any hint of boredom in between games. From short, sharp video analysis sessions, team meetings and motivational speakers; time between training sessions will be limited. But even that can be enough to knock a player out of a rhythm if they’re feeling homesick or just not mentally taxed.
Each player will have their own way to unwind and enjoy their own ‘me time’ – which may still include a room-mate.
David Wallace watches art imitating life at Rancho Relaxo. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Some players will happily lie down and catch up with a show on Netflix, others would consider watching TV way out of the ordinary and may simply turn the volume up on a playlist. The lucky ones can sleep at a moments notice, staying sharp by dozing off.
“You’d have a lorry-load of books with you, you’d need a pallet to bring your gear bag from one place to another — all that’s changed with technology, you can fit it all on your tablet.”
The weight and dimensions of the personal entertainment may have changed, but what it’s distracting a player from has not.