‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’ is the opening line to a Charles Dickens novel that probably reveals more of my inner geek than my usual talk of sweepers, third midfielders and shot percentages.
But it is the ideal line to sum up what I’m going to talk about.
It’s a sunny Tuesday in September. About 10.30am. Sitting in Chawkes in Adare with Joe Quaid and Patsy Hall. Reeking of stale beer but smug in our success. On the Sunday we had taken the Limerick camogie team to Croke Park and won. Up the steps of the Hogan. Garda escort back to Adare. Life is good. Life is fuckin great!
Quaid turns around, pint in hand. ‘Be ready for the slump’ he says. Silence. ‘Be ready for it, in a few days it will hit ye and ye’ll be in the depths of depression that it’s all over.’
‘Ah fuck off Quaid will ya’ is about the last thing I remember saying before I woke up on Wednesday! How could there be any slump after this.
Turns out he was right. The following week, inside in work. A grey oul morning. Sitting at the desk. And it just hit me. The pats on the back stop. The players go back to their clubs. It’s all over. Everything we put our heart and soul into. That incredible high you get with a group of people are working in unison to achieve a common goal. Gone. And it leaves a massive hole inside. One that’s impossible to fill.
It’s hard to describe. Like a fog in your brain. You become narky with those close to you. Disinterested in work. Just fuckin depressed.
And for the next few months it just didn’t go away. And then we started training again, and you’re back with the group, and everything seems ok again. Working towards a common goal. Safe.
I’d experienced this feeling before. A couple of years previously. A junior team I was coaching, good bunch of young lads, motoring well all year, caught in the semi-final. Took it very bad. But we had lost. I just told myself I was taking the defeat badly. A sore loser. Linking the depression to the result. But that wasn’t it.
Whether it’s the best of times, or the worst of times, that slump is going to come. It’s not the winning or losing. You miss the purity of it all. A united group, putting it all on the line, for the parish, for the county. For the absolute sport of it all.
But you learn to deal with it.
DJ Collins, the ladies football guru in UL, believes there are physiological as well as mental aspects to the slump.
‘You are flat out preparing, training, organizing all the logistics. You end up running on pure adrenaline. Then all of a sudden it’s over and mentally you switch off, as sure as night follows day your body switches off too…’
‘You feel fatigued. You feel sick. Your body breaks down. You feel a bit down. It happens. Once you know it’s coming it’s easier to deal with.’
It’s coming to that time of the year now where teams seasons are going to finish up. If you’re reading this you could be a coach who experiences the slump soon. It’s ok buddy, it happens us all. Find another coach. Talk to them about it.
It’s ok not to be ok.