End of Autumn term: report

As we roll into Christmas it's about half-time in the season and that lends itself to a mid-term review- a view from Fester's dungeon.

I've been known to get too serious about stuff and one of the myriad things I did wrong as skipper was to take it all too seriously and to try to get everybody to feel the same way, to the same degree.

I still take things seriously but I try to remember to keep some humour in it and confine myself to my sphere. I no longer struggle to teach the pig to sing. I can't speak for my porcine friends but it was irritating the heck out of me!

As a firmly amateur club, it has been interesting to see an emphasis on fitness coaching. I would say "strength and conditioning" as that's my background, but frankly we're a long way from that. Even so, for some time now the club has had a dedicated provision of fitness coaching in its corner (yes I know necessity is the mother of invention but why fight it!). I'm told it has been of some benefit too. To what extent I think has been overstated (to the same degree as the conditioning levels of the players). Honestly, in one session per week (albeit an amazing one!), there is a limit to the benefits! It has, however, been a good opportunity to get in the heads of some of the lads. For my part I believe that a large part of the training effect is found in the psychological aspect of shared hardships.

After which lengthy introduction I come to my first thought:- expectations; aspirations and reality. I'm a big fan of hopes and dreams - they keep the fires burning in the cold and dark. But without a check on our available resources we can soon find ourselves exposed. This isn't said to prevent the attempt. Far from it - getting started is crucial. Do it to better set the tone for what we do next. This is not just to set context but also to measure progress. We don't and can't declare absolutes. We are relatively better or worse and with a sense of self and position we can acknowledge and appreciate the journey.

There's a second them to this ramble. It's about character and the great forgotten question of goal-setting.
Character? That sense of self again. Success breeds success but where does it leave us? Celebrating! But in any field of endeavour we now find that our base expectations are higher. The requirements to maintain are that much more than before. So what do we do? Follow up our success with our hunger for more. We push on. Fine and noble but have we paid attention to what we need to have in place to ensure both our current positioning and the future we desire?

And here's my main thought - the great unasked. Not what do we want; nor how do we get there. Nor is it "do we have the resources" nor "what will it give us"; "what will it look/feel/sound/smell like?" More often than not, these questions get asked along the way. No, the great unasked is more in the dark side of what we will have... "What will this stop us having/doing? What does this acquisition cost us?

This might be an opportunity cost in the "I can't do x while I'm doing y" but it might also be "what does it cost us in the securing? Do we have to sign over our soul (or a part of it) for this deal?

And herein lies the "be careful what you wish for". Being league champions in successive seasons is nice and the celebrations will be outstanding, but what's the cost? Higher standards of competition week in, week out. That's a cost? Possibly. The hidden service charge is this - with a higher standard comes a higher demand - more training time and preparation is required. With a higher standard will come greater physicality and the depth of your squad will be tested.

So, the hidden cost? Take my club for example, it makes sense, that's where this started after all! Currently we have one fitness session per week and one skills/team based session. Neither have full attendance and while it would be nice, it is probably not crucial at this point. To hang around with the bigger boys in the playground we will probably need to be doing two sessions per week and the PT. Not massive to some extent but at the same time, a 50% increase in commitment required. Can we ask for and will we get that sort of commitment? From the current crop? Possibly but you would have to say that, in the face of current attendance, it's unlikely! So, we need to invest more in encouraging and/or cajoling? And the mind starts to change direction...

Here's the identity question:
  • What's it mean to be us?
  • What's important to us about what we have, and what we want?
  • Are we prepared to invest as much as is required?
  • What will we sacrifice in the attempt? Will we pay that as well?
  • What will we gain if we succeed?
  • What will we lose? Are we ready for and prepared to pay that price?
Where am I going with all this? Nowhere really (I probably shouldn't write late at night)! Seriously though, I'm just asking the annoying questions to help you get there but the decision to be made is yours. The voyage and the destination begin and end with you. Why? If not, it's not your goal you're headed towards. It's mine!
It's not all doom and gloom though. I believe it is possible to become more "professional"  without sacrificing the soul of the club on the altar of video-analysis and meetings. There is a question of scale and balance on a few steps along the way. Before we get too far into the "everything must change, all is lost" mindset we could try getting the most from what we are currently doing.
The odd debrief wouldn't go amiss but it starts simpler. If you only had 60 minutes, what would you strip out, what would be left? 90 minutes or even 180 minutes seem like a lot by comparison but it's still not enough time for everything... so what's important? Now do it!!!
So, the précis version - done well, more to come. But whither hence?
Ho ho ho!


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