What are you prepared to do to improve your game? Is turning up on a Tuesday and Thursday night for training going to be enough to take your game to the next level?
The answer to that question is quite simple – it’s a no.
Our game is changing and it’s changing damn fast. Gone are the days where two training sessions and a match at the weekend would suffice. That is so 1990’s. There are far more demands and expectations on players now to continuously improve and club football is now getting towards a commitment level where county football was just about 10 to 15 years ago. There is also something else that is rapidly changing with the times and that is the facilities and resources that players have available to them to help them get to the top or at least give them the best chance possible.
The only thing in the way of a GAA player making it to the top of their game is ATTITUDE. If a player has ambition to succeed at club or county level, they must be prepared to stick to the diet and hydration plan; they must be willing to hit the gym and get the strength and conditioning done; they must get themselves to the pitch on their days off to work on their weaknesses such as weak foot kick-passing, hand-passing, shooting, tackling, speed work, free taking, co-ordination and vision while still improving on their strengths.
Then when it comes to their Tuesday and Thursday nights, they must listen intensively to their managers or coaches and concentrate fully on what is being asked of them and the instructions of the game plan, team formations and set plays. They must also be willing to analyse and assess their own performances and take feedback from their manager or coach as a positive because this is provided to ultimately improve their game and understanding of their role within the team.
All of the above and more must be done while somehow finding sometime in between for rest and recovery. Because you only ever think of your own needs, being a footballer can be extremely selfish, especially to those loved ones that support you but that’s the nature of it and you must put yourself first if it is to work out.
As a player, one of the things that I loved doing most was going to watch the players that I wanted to learn from. This taught me so much by seeing what made them so effective. The type of player that I loved to watch would have been players that played in a similar position. Guys that where in the full-forward line. I was actually inspired by Bernard Flynn after the National Football league final against Armagh in 1994 to do this. He gave an exhibition of forward play and I left Croke Park that day thinking about ways that I could improve myself. This was my first time ever in Croke Park watching from the old Nally Stand and I was just 14.
Mickey Linden and Diarmuid Marsden were also players that I watched and learned a lot from. From knowing when they made their runs and having time on the ball, to taking their man on, creating space and the most important part of playing in the forward line then scrutinising their ability and conviction to take a score.
Another key part of my learnings was seeing exactly how they coped with the special attention that was afforded to them and how cool they remained. Players with ice in the head always succeed. There were also games that I went to watch particular defenders, fellas who I might at some stage come up against but if I didn’t, I could still see the full extent of what tight defenders were prepared to do to put their man off his game.
By standing behind the goals and watching these guys, it taught me how to control my emotions more during matches. When I was unsure of certain aspects of my game or I was intrigued by something that they had done, the forwards that is, I was never afraid to lift the phone to ask the question. This is a great way to learn and to improve yourself. These are simple but very effective ways that are available to every player to go and improve themselves.
I could well be wrong but I would imagine that all players at the peak of their game are never afraid to ask for advice. None of us are or ever will be the perfect player, but there are always ways to learn and improve and remember this, your ATTITUDE must play the same tune to your vision.