How The Pro’s Do What They Do!
By Shane Carberry – Guest Writer.
I was described as many things during my short, amateur, football career; fast, quick, aware, protective; but not once was I ever called a heavy hitter! Don’t get me wrong I got the job done, but I don’t think I ever left someone feeling like they just had their lungs forcefully evacuated by some monstrous being overpowering their respiratory system. Being just 150lbs, and easily one of the shortest on the Tullamore Phoenix team, that isn’t surprising. Thankfully I had some semblance of speed and change of direction capabilities to be of reasonable use to the team, even if it was only from time to time.
One thing I could do though was take a hit. Coming up against some of the older teams – especially The Cowboys, Rebels and Knights – always gave rise to some heavy hitting games, but I never felt like it was beyond me. You take the contact, get up and get ready for the next snap; It’s just a part of the game that all players in the league love!
This fact was something we, my fellow Phoenix and I, talked about a number of times during our post game pints down in the local. These conversations always left me wondering what would it be like to get hit by a “real” footballer – a professional NFL player!
I was always of the opinion that yeah, it might be a totally different experience than anyone in the IAFA could produce, but it wouldn’t be something that was beyond my capabilities. Sure, I’d not be getting back up any time soon, and taking multiple impacts in a short period of time was anything but likely, but not something that would cause me to wish my life was over or start singing Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”!
I found it surprising that I was always alone in that thought: everyone else was happy that no players in the Irish leave had been practicing padded contact from a younger age then eighteen! Still, I was happy thinking that a bit of fun between myself and John Lynch wouldn’t result in me adopting the fetal position, and afterwards we could go hit the local sports bar to devour wings and beer for the night!
Man oh man how my mind has changed!
Right now I’m writing to you from the staff office of “The Athlete Factory” here in Calgary, Canada. The factory, my place of work for the last number of months, is a strength and conditioning facility where we work with professional and aspiring professional athletes from a range of different sports, some of which are of course football (Both American and Canadian Variants). On our roster we have three current professional CFL players, one of whom got drafted with the Panthers a few years ago, unfortunately having to drop out due to injury.
Watching these guys train has been an eye opening experience for a million and one reasons. They are incredibly powerful, strong, and fast, and are completely dedicated to getting better at their sport. It has expanded my outlook on what I think is possible within strength training and general sports performance, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot even from just watching them train every day.
The most important lesson I’ve learned? Taking contact from these guys would be, on a scale of 1-10, negative 100 levels of fun. Thanks, but no thanks. I’m happy just sitting here drinking my beer and over telling that mediocre highlight reel of mine to anyone who’ll listen!
All joking aside, having played the wonderful sport that is full contact football and working with these guys as they train has been an amazing experience: an experience there is a lot to learn from. Because, honestly, professional athletes attack their training totally different than any amateur player does.
This isn’t because of the weights they lift, which are huge, or their abilities to transfer that strength into real world movement, which is insane, but it’s their mindset when it comes to each and every training session. Their focus is on truly maximizing every single rep, of every single set, of every single session, and it’s astounding because they know that each rep is an opportunity to get better – an opportunity to make their dreams a reality.
What can we learn from the Pro’s?
Until you’ve witnessed this first hand you won’t fully understand what I’m talking about. I used to think I worked hard. I pushed myself to the “limit” and did my best to improve every single time I stepped into the gym or onto the field – hell for three years straight I didn’t miss a single training day – but these guys bring something more. Something much more!
It’s almost as if they see each rep as the most important rep of their lives; as the rep that will make or break their career. It is this one rep that will be seen by every Head Coach in the league, and based on that rep and that rep alone, their entire future will be decided. They attack it with everything they have, knowing full well that doing anything else is deciding to throw away their potential dream career.
It is astounding.
What can us Irish football players take from this? It really is the age old advice of Working Harder. Football is an amazing sport, but it’s also a difficult one to excel at – especially given the fact that the majority of players in Ireland also hold day to day jobs, too! But that shouldn’t stop us from trying to maximize our return on the time we do spend at football. Although it is a recreational league, nothing sucks more than losing a game you know you should have won – especially for those of you spending hours in the gym and on the track specifically training to be better football players.
But just imagine what football in Ireland could be if every player in the league approached their training this way. Our beautiful, small, cultured country would quickly become one of the best outside of north America to play this wonderful sport, and every single one of us would be the reason for it!