Gerard O'Kane

GERARD O’KANE: It’s time to unwind

FOR 95 per cent of club players, we are now well into the off season – or maybe party season as some would like to call it – though for those who did not make it to the latter end of their respective championships, this might have been the case for a number of weeks now.

It’s a good chance to unwind and enjoy a break and some well needed downtime. However, every time we open Twitter or Facebook we are greeted with a club announcement that they have a new senior management in place and wishing them all the best for the new season.

This has to be done at this time of the year as the longer clubs leave it, the harder they will find it to get their man as the pool of respective candidates is ever dwindling.

For the players it might breathe a bit of energy into them with a new man at the helm, and rumours abound of what he wants to achieve for the new season and how he wants to achieve it.

All this is fairly standard GAA practice by now but each year that passes should provide learnings for the one just gone by in that nothing is ever won in December or January!

Apart from the five per cent of county players across the country and the very small minority of teams still playing, players should enjoy this downtime as best they can. That doesn’t give licence to completely switch off as it will only lead to falling behind – such is the fitness culture in the GAA that it can be hard for players to completely step away for a few weeks. Players might need to work on injuries this time of the year which is a different goal but other than that, I would be encouraging players to give their body a break from the rigours of tough training.

By all means, enjoy fitness socially as most do. Play a bit of soccer, organised five-a-side or even if the gym is your thing, keep going and enjoying the gym for fitness or a routine, but don’t be afraid to maybe change it up a little. Join a class for a while and do something different to just give you that bit of a different adrenalin rush while still getting your fitness hit.

Believe me, doing your structured gym session of S&C at this time of the year, your Olympic lifts, hinge movements etc will not help you kick the ball over the bar next July or August. It’s good to keep fit and active and it gives most a great buzz but this time of the year should be coupled with a bit of social fitness, going to the gym with your buddies or doing something outside your comfort zone.

If you turn up to next season in reasonable shape in January or February there will be enough structure given to your lives at that point that you will be glad you enjoyed the few months of doing it all in your own time and in your own way.

The hope is that most GAA managers understand this too and allow players time to breath. It can be difficult for a new manager not to get stuck in right away and gather the troops, but often playing the long game is a better way to get the most out of your players next June, July and August when you will need it most.

From the management point of view, this is the time where you can get all your ducks in a row for the next season. You can have all the conversations you need with committees, background teams and even the players themselves without physically burning the players or even yourself out. If you are new to a club, there is plenty of things you can do over the next four weeks without having to pull on a pair of boots yourself.

There is so much planning that goes into a new season, especially for a new manager, that now is the time to do so. Then when you do start it will allow you to move forward in the confidence that you are not working and planning week to week and you are able to have a structure in place.

The players will take confidence from that too as part of the art of management now is having that vision of being organised. Players pick up on small things like that and most have been in enough good and poor set ups at this stage to know a bullshitter when they see one.

For players and management, use your time wisely at this time of the year. The GAA season has become so fast-paced that once you are in it, it’s like a fairground ride that barely takes time to stop and it’s certainly very difficult to get off at any time during the year, and before you know it you are back round to the start and another year has been and gone.

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