GAA coaches, it's NOVEMBER! Catch yourselves on
With the exception of 10 senior clubs, the season is over for everyone and we're a good six months out from any meaningful or competitive fixtures for those guys.
It's November and yet some of the stuff you'd hear even at this time of the year would drive you absolutely insane.
One club up north have implemented this policy where the players have to send pictures of themselves in a WhatsApp group every single time they go to the gym - just so they can prove that they actually went to the gym.
Another club are tallying up how many weights sessions and pitch sessions each of their men are doing and someone has worked it out as some sort of percentage to determine whether or not they've done an acceptable number of sessions.
It's November. That cannot be stressed enough.
Some of that stuff is madness anyway - talk about taking over people's lives and, God, you wouldn't need to guess how many of them have already muted notifications from those WhatsApp groups. It's too much as it is and then you take it into the context that... IT'S NOVEMBER.
Every single season - it doesn't matter if it's a good year or a bad year - you grow pissed off with the club and you need a break. We all love the GAA and we'd be nowhere without it but, by the end of each campaign, you're ready to cut ties. The cabin fever, the pressure, the monotony all gathers and you just need to get away from each other - piss off completely and not come back until you're ready.
But now it's November and boys are being hounded worse than they ever have been before. It'll feel like they've never had a break - not mentally anyway.
What happens then is you get a club who completely loses the plot. Around last May, back when the evenings had stretched, the sun was shining on one of those timeless Irish summer nights, a video emerged on social media of a club team training... in a hall. They weren't outside, they weren't making the most of the weather or the pitch or any of the things that they might use to play football. No, they were inside working on their auditory response times.
The players were in a line picking up different cones on different commands, trying to perfect how quickly they could all react to sound. What is going on? Go outside. Kick a bloody football, for God's sake.
Where did that idea come from anyway? Did they think in the last five minutes of a championship game that their auditory response times were going to give them the advantage?
That's just one depressing example of a culture that has swept the country. Conditioning coaches are analysing running techniques rather than working up a sweat with the precious time you have with these amateur players. People are working on relaxation techniques and spending more time doing prehab than actually doing any training that might ever leave you with the need for rehab.
There's logic behind this stuff - if you're a professional. Maybe if you're an NFL athlete that's as perfectly trained as a human will ever be, then these supplements can improve you by a tenth of a second but Gaelic football coaches mostly get two nights a week to work with their teams and a lot of them are rarely thinking about improving their football.
No-one's saying that your team shouldn't be conditioned. No-one's stupid enough to argue that power isn't one of the biggest qualities of a GAA player but boys squat more than they do kick pass nowadays and coaches are coming back at the start of every year with a new idea that's going to be the one that gets them over the line.
They're looking for the extra 1% and, in the process, they neglect the 99% that's required to play this game.
So they focus on their little fad for the first five months of the season and then, when the action starts, it all quickly gets abandoned and they soon learn they've left it too late.
Boys just take their eyes off the ball. Literally.
Sometimes it's not just the newest or quirkiest trend.
How many times have you been almost teased about not seeing any footballs? "You can forget about the balls tonight."
How many times have you sat in a changing room after a loss and had a list of incriminating stats read out? The breaking ball count wasn't good enough, the kickout percentages were pathetic - that sort of thing. Then you get down to the field on Tuesday night and you run. You crawl. You do push-ups and this is supposed to help you go for a breaking ball better or tighten up your kickout strategy.
The best teams get the balance right. When they're in the gym, they're working hard - they're not practicing functional movement and landing techniques. They play football in training and they do it with fierce intensity. The best managers adopt common sense and, mostly, they practice playing the sport they're going to be playing in games.
It's funny how that helps them.
Some of them might look for the 1% that they're missing. Fine. But they won't do it at the expense of the 99%.
And they sure as hell won't find it working on auditory responses anyway.