In the Football Wilderness

In the Football Wilderness

In the Football Wilderness

On 5th January 2021, we were thrown, for the third time inside ten months, into a national lockdown and, with it, many of our day-to-day activities were affected. For those of you associated with P1GK, your football season and, more importantly, the sport that you love was, once again, thrown to one side.

For many of us, the first lockdown wreaked havoc on the 2019/20 season. Although some competitions in the upper tiers of the football pyramid were able to finish, the vast majority were cut short and simply declared ‘null and void’.

In November, just two months after the start of the new youth season, another lockdown was imposed – another four weeks of interruption. Alas, there was a glimmer of light, as on the 2nd December, we were free to go out and play the game again – a natural break over Christmas and New Year in the grassroots game and we’ll be back at it come January… now, LOCKDOWN 3.0!

It’s a mental rollercoaster. Instead of a climb filled with anticipation, wonder and a hint of fun-filled dread / excitement, our climb is a struggle of waning fitness, diminishing confidence and the awareness that your skill-set is not as sharp, not match-ready. 

Instead of the adrenaline-fuelled rush of a downward run, we bounce abruptly to the bottom, missing the friendly smiles of our team-mates and the sense of camaraderie – all of our previous climbs cast aside, onto the waste pile.

Then… we wait, wait for it to start over again, knowing there is a new climb but, how long before we can enjoy another downward run?

What’s the point?

Angry..? Yes!
Frustrated..? Well, aren’t you?
“Come and watch the football” is offered as a suggestion Oh yeah, great, watch the game I cannot play, the game I love.
It’s ok, I’ll find something else to do!

And there it is, another footballing casualty, owing to the lockdowns.

These are some of the emotions that I’ve felt. These are my frustrations, as a 39 year old adult and coach. I’m sure our young developing players have an enhanced sense of this.

I am fully aware that we are fighting a global pandemic and I understand that needs must. That doesn’t mean we should overlook the other impacts that these lockdowns are having. As a coach, having worked with footballing youth for over 20 years, at all levels of the game we love, here is my advice to help keep you positive and mentally sharp:

Create a routine. You would have one if not in lockdown, so don’t let lockdown be an excuse.

  1. Wake up at the same time everyday, if you normally wake up at 7am for school, wake up at 7am.
  2. Eat breakfast, wash and get dressed.
  3. Read or listen to a book that will teach you something for 20-30 mins. I know many youth players have school/college work, but read or listen to something that interests you and build knowledge about what you love.
  4. Have a break, snack, FaceTime or Zoom with friends, see each other for exercise (socially-distanced) and talk face-to-face, as best we can at the moment – this will enable you to hone your social skills, picking up facial cues and body language.
  5. Exercise. Whether that is riding a bike, going for a run or walking the dog. Regardless of the weather, get outside in nature. Make your body face the elements, see nature, look over larger distances than possible in your home or in your garden. This will help build resilience and combat a deficiency in depth perception.
  6. Lunchtime: eat, then give yourself some downtime, play on your console if you wish but limit your time and be disciplined with it. Give yourself control. It is this that will make a huge difference for you long term.
  7. Watch some football, for the same amount of time you would play it a week. Don’t watch the ball, watch the formations, the players, their reactions, their behaviours. What makes one player better than another? I can assure you it’s not their FIFA rating.
  8. Help someone in your home: mum or dad, brother or sister. Maybe a nearby friend needs some help with collecting shopping. Do something of value, something that gives you a sense of togetherness, of community, and do it without it being asked to. Build a sense of pride, so your brain feels it’s achieving things.
  9. Once you’ve had a day full of meaningful content, your downtime is your own.

Do these things and the days will fly past. You will have grown to be a better person, rather than just a better Fortnite or COD player. You’ll notice when things do go wrong and you’ll have an improved sense of self-control and be better-equipped to cope when you get down or angry – no more rage quits or thrown controllers!

Be ready, not just physically but mentally, for the return to football.

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