These days, every clubhouse in the country seems to have made some effort at putting a club gym in place. And if they haven’t, there have probably been discussions at AGM’s or Executive club meetings about doing so.
With most clubs now looking to promote a strength and conditioning culture, it is the way forward. It can hone and develop that culture, as well as fostering and developing bonds and friendship within those clubs.
The flipside though, is that such a move can often smack of pure tokenism, of just merely ticking a box.
I’ve seen plenty of gyms decorated more by cobwebs and dust than any motivational posters or slogans on the wall, primarily because nobody has set foot inside the place for six months. After the blast of winter training is over, and the long evenings arrive, it’s almost as if the gym has become an afterthought. Gym machines and equipment, bars and weights, kettlebells and cables are just lying idle like old discarded hurls flung in a corner.
The place feels as empty and soulless as it looks.
The main reason often stems from a lack of accountability. The box is ticked, so the club just switches its focus to the field, even though much of what happens now on that field, especially at senior club level, depends on what is being done in the gym. Some players do use the gym but interest wanes when there is no direction, or the lack of presence of a qualified strength and conditioning coach. Its like opening a swimming pool and having no lifeguards on duty.
That apathy often directed towards strength and conditioning is too often misplaced and costly, particularly when a club has the facilities and equipment on site.
The modern day player is strong, lean, fast and can move proficiently.
They are skillful too but a large part of performing to a peak level depends on proper conditioning. Especially when so many other clubs are focusing on it.
In my time playing inter-county hurling, I’ve seen that most of the stuff which happens at that level drips down and feeds into club level within three to four years. That has ranged from strength training, to running mechanics, to body-fat testing, to nutrition plans, to having proper training gear, and even as far as organising training weekends.
The difficulty is that while the desired outcomes are often the same, the resources are often very different, which makes it harder still to even hit a desired target at club level. That consequently leads to cutting corners. Kitting out the gym is forward thinking and proactive but then leaving the players to their own devices, to work out their own gym programmes without any guidance, is too often a recipe for disaster.
Injury, often chronic injury from misplaced or wrong S&C training can cripple a club, both financially and personnel wise. Some clubs’ physio and medical bills are astronomical but many clubs have now recognised the important link between proper S&C training and injury prevention, and in turn decreased medical costs.
It’s a biased opinion, I accept, but even if hiring an S&C coach isn’t within the financial remit of a club, there are many realistic measures which can be taken to advance that culture properly; organising workshops on running mechanics, nutrition and even yoga classes can set up a player to be far better conditioned and injury free than just leaving those players to their own devices.
There is so much information out there now that players will eat it up but they also appreciate any guidance in a field which has become so broad. Furthermore, organising those classes or workshops makes players feel more important, more professional almost.
In the long run, it also fosters and strengths an environment of goodwill and togetherness that runs throughout the club.
For years, S&C training got a bad rap. It suited many critics to blame weights training for making players slow and ponderous. It often did but that was largely down to misguided and undirected gym training in the first place.
Players were lifting weights to look good, not to make themselves better players.
That culture has changed now but it still needs to be honed and developed to maximise the potential and playing resources within a club.
Too often I see players doing the wrong type of training over winter. They are determined that this year they are going to prepare better than ever before. They will work harder than ever before but six months down the line, they are yawning before a championship game, wondering why their legs are tired during the warmup.
It was probably those workouts over the winter designed to leave them in a pool of sweat on the floor. Yet throwing sweat at the problem isn’t always the answer. Proper education and intelligent direction around S&C is a far more intelligent, practical, beneficial – and often cheaper in the long run – path to pursue.
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