Steven McDonnell: These cold dark nights are when you should look to find that extra few per cent which can make the difference in 2022
THERE is a window of opportunity over the next three months for players to work on areas of their game that require improvement. Some players will use the downtime to give their bodies much-needed rest and to wait until next year’s pre-season training to commence and that is absolutely fine, but if a player has ambitions to really improve their game, then now is a chance.
This would not take up a lot of time but it would be time well spent. Each player should evaluate their performance over the course of 2021 and focus on how they can take their game to another level. This really can be anything and sometimes is totally dependent on the position and role you play for your team.
The standards in Gaelic Games are rising all the time and to stay in the game, you must raise your standards.
It could be focusing on your ability to win break ball, it could be improving your shooting, working on your weaker side, shot-stopping, speedwork, improvement on your mental strength to help you play through critical moments. The list really is endless and the only person that can decide to do this is you.
Playing county football provided me with the mindset to really look at my weaknesses on a constant basis and to seek areas of improvement that would make me a difficult opponent for anyone marking me.
Over the years, the areas to improve on changed until it was all about creative movement to find myself a pocket of space where I could impact the scoreboard.
The reason for this was simply because the game was becoming more defensive and more players were crowding out the space, but my end goal was still the same as it was 10 years previous to that, which was to play as a forward and to score for my team.
If my objectives had not evolved as the game was changing, I would not have been able to fulfil my duties for the team so it's important to take into consideration what your role really is for the team when deciding on ways to improve yourself as a footballer.
Commitment levels in club football are now on a par with where county football was at about 15 years ago, although some clubs certainly raise that bar at a much higher level.
You can see this by the facilities that clubs have invested in over the last decade alone. State of the art gyms, multiple playing fields, ball walls, 3G pitches are just some areas that clubs have invested heavily in and this is all to provide their players with a platform to improve their game and hopefully bring silverware along with it. Good structures are always important to have in place from underage level upwards but a player’s attitude should always be to better themselves along with that.
Gaelic football has some very talented individuals playing the game right now.
Players like David Clifford, Rían O’Neill, Lee Keegan and Niall Morgan are marquee names but the one thing that they all have in common is that they are always looking for ways to get better.
They don’t think that they are the end product, but their mindset is to continuously strive for improvement. Regardless of whether you play county football or club football, there is always a way to get better and they will look at these winter months as the opportunity to add that extra few per cent to their games.
It’s very easy to use the dark evenings and the wintery nights as an excuse not to do this but when you see the benefits of it in the summer months of 2022, you will feel a great sense of satisfaction for getting yourself out there and doing it.
Championships are never easy won and sometimes it comes down to the mentality of an individual to get a team over the line, but one thing that these dark nights will improve on alone is mentality. That is almost a certainty, so if you put that together with the improvement of a weakness in your game, then your team benefits from it and so do you as a footballer.
In any sport, the best players are always the ones looking for an edge. The ones constantly striving to become better versions of themselves and the ones prepared to put the effort in.
Gaelic football is an amateur sport but that does not give a player an easy way out not to focus on grabbing the gains.
In fact, it should give them more of a desire to do it because there is a stronger connection for doing it for the club and the community, they live in. Find that edge, evaluate your game and ask yourself, what are you prepared to do to get your game to another level for 2022.