On Monday night I attended the University College Dublin soccer team’s practice. Three of my classmates and I arrived 15 minutes early and what seemed to be the conditioning coach was setting up all of the equipment. Practice was supposed to begin at 7:00pm but most players did not get there until 7:10. They started right away with a warm up, stretched, and then began drills. They finished practice with a scrimmage.
The team’s practice was very organized, structured, and all the players were very serious. They went from one drill to the next without meeting in between. While taking pictures, I sat about 20 feet from the sideline and was not able to get close enough to hear any conversations between teammates or coaches.
I have now attended three gaelic football practices with the Kilmacud Crokes. These practices are serious, but also a lot of fun. The practices begin with the captain taking the players for a lap around the field, then the coach leading them through dynamic stretching, and finally static stretching. They then started with drills. After each drill the team came together and talked about what went wrong, what went well, and what needs to be done next time. Often times they would do the drill again until they improved and had minimal mistakes. After they improved their skills, they would all come together to stretch. They stretched at least 4-5 times during each practice. These practices involved a lot of swearing, a lot of laughter, and a lot of injury.
Being able to compare a world-wide sport like soccer to an Irish-specific sport like Gaelic Football, I learned a lot. The main difference I saw between the two sport practices was the seriousness. Soccer was very serious while gaelic football was serious but also very goofy. The soccer team went straight into practice, no breaks, and not a lot of smiles.
This was very different because the Kilmacud Crokes talked and laughed the entire time. I was able to see their relationships a lot better compared to the soccer team. This may be because I have been working with them for a little over a week, but seeing the relationship the teammates had was key. They were able to joke around, but they also got serious and concentrated when they needed to, specifically during drills and scrimmages. This shows that the players are able to switch on and off from football and optimally perform when needed.
This relates to the mental toughness attribute focus. Since Gaelic Football is such a community sport and event, they need be able to turn the competitive side off at times to enjoy themselves and the game. However, it was clear that they knew when they needed to turn their focus back on and perform at their best (Jones, 2007). They had a good balance of being able to focus on football, but also being able to have fun and enjoy the game.
The Kilmacud Crokes also cheered each other on a lot more than the soccer team did. They were constantly emitting positive energy and cheering each other on. The encouragement and praise came from both teammates and the coaches. This lead to the individuals having a higher self-confidence and motivation because they were recognized for achieving expertise in the game (Connaughton, Hanes, Jones, 2010).
Since the Kilmacud Crokes were more personable, I was able to get in closer and whenever the team met, I joined in. This gave me the opportunity to hear everything that was going on, as well as allow me to get closer pictures. I was not able to do this with the soccer team because they seemed more conservative and serious.
Another main difference I found was the stretching and injuries. While the soccer team stretched once during practice, the Gaelic football team stretched 4 or 5 times. The coach mentioned they did this to prevent injuries. He said they have quite a few players that are injured and they need to prevent further players from injuring themselves. This strategy was new to me because in all the sports I have participated in back home, we only stretched at the beginning and end of practices. It was very similar to the way the UCD soccer team did it.
Jones, G., Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2007). A framework of mental toughness in the world’s best performers. Sport Psychologist, 21(2).
Jones, G., Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2007). The Development and Maintenance of Mental Toughness in the World’s Best Performers. Sport Psychologist, 168-193.