PAURIC GRIMES: GAA and its alcohol relationship

HERE’S a topic that has a funny old relationship with people  across the GAA – alcohol.

From drink bans to Monday clubs, the extreme nature of how alcohol is viewed within Gaelic games is a tricky one to truly grasp what the feeling on it is.

And do those extreme relationships with drinking create problems down the line for retired players? It’s a difficult subject to breach as its impacts are felt on so many different levels.

So where do we start? Two Degrees sound-tracking championship victories or the ban on drinking, being social, living a normal life, all the way up to the whistle blows in your last championship game of the year?

As a coach who quite often is helping people with some element of fat loss at some point in their journeys, one thing I will never do is take out a food they love, even if it’s high calories and negatively contributing to their fat loss goals.

There’s a commonly held idea that if you deprive someone of something they enjoy for a “greater good” that eventually they’ll succumb to temptation, fall off the wagon and hit their vice harder than ever, it’s termed “the deprivation cycle.” You can look it up, just in case you’ve ever tried to cut something out completely before and wondered why it’s been so difficult.

My advice is generally to consciously plan to reduce the consumption, change the environmental cues and patterns that trigger the eating or drinking and give yourself time to detach the emotion around the process.

And as left field as that may sound, the idea that emotion comes into play, when you break it down, it’s fairly obvious. We eat or drink because of the way it makes us feel. Maybe it’s to pick us up when we’re feeling down, maybe it’s to help us relax or maybe it’s as a treat.

Attaching actions to emotions, especially negative ones, is a major contributing factor to why people find themselves in a hole. They’ve eaten or drank themselves to escape a reality that they aren’t happy with.

I digress. Where do we go with the GAA’s relationship with alcohol, and how do we find a balance between all in or not at all?

Unfortunately Irish culture has to take a whole lot of the responsibility, and whenever things like “The Irish love their drink” is an accepted societal norm it’s an uphill battle to change how it’s viewed.

So how do we find the middle ground? Maybe there’s no such thing.

At some point we all, as individuals, have to take responsibility for our actions. Managers and coaches shouldn’t have to impose drinking bans.

Educate the players around the negative impact alcohol has on performance. If they don’t want to heed that, no problem, they aren’t buying inwto your ethos so give the man who does his chance.

Remove the stigma around not drinking, as if there must be something wrong with someone if they don’t want a pint. And stop glorifying the ‘great drinker’ so can take a bellyful without a flinch or go on it for days and still be able to go again.

If you’ve had a drink, you know hangovers are no craic. So don’t give any man a badge of honour for putting the work in to get one that puts him in the horrors for a week.

Make your own mind up on where you stand on it, but if you’re on the fence I’d suggest doing a search online for the Huberman Lab and listening to his podcast on the effects of alcohol on the body.

At the very least, you can make an informed decision on what your thoughts on the GAA and its relationship with drink is.

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