In this week’s column, the Secret Junior Footballer tackles an issue that all players know only too much about.
A work/life balance can be a tricky thing to master. If you work shift it can be almost impossible. Your body clock is all over the place, you barely see the children and any semblance of diet and exercise gets thrown out the window.
You try eating high protein, low carb at 3.30 when all you can think of is Chicken Hut, it’s impossible. Throw sport into the mix and you’ve got three balls in the air, juggling work, life and football. When times were good and I worked straight days it was a dream.
No kids, train twice a week, few pints on a Friday night and maybe a few more on Sunday afternoon. These days there’s way too much to contend with. With the advent of the mobile phone you are never more than a moment away.
With Facebook you can confirm almost anyone’s whereabouts and even the least tech-savvy manager considers himself to have an army of Alex Ferguson type spies, watching the bars and clubs of Limerick, just waiting for one of his players to stick his neck out so they can fire off a text ratting him out.
So what to do? There have been three stages of my life when I’ve thought about packing it in but really, I’ve discovered you just needed to strike a balance.
When you were young, barely educated and out of work you lived for football. You were the best shape of your life and more or less trained every day. Plus, you had the time to cook proper lunches and dinners and really looked after yourself.
Obviously that couldn’t go on forever so the job situation had to get sorted and before long you were married with one baby and another on the way. Still football was a big part of life, even if your prime was slipping away.
When the job was going well and you were still enjoying football, the family needed more. Nothing puts a stop to your plans to go training quicker than nappy rash, lost soothers and a wife standing in the doorway with a rolling pin. So for the first time in years, you start to slip and your absence at training becomes notable.
When the recession hit and the job went the way of the Dodo, you did your best to make ends meet and took the shiftwork when it came up.
Training hit the skids and the family is your number one priority but you just can’t let go. But like when you were that kid with all that free time, you still love the game. The window in which you can properly contribute to the matches you play in is starting to close and with the gaffer giving you grief for missing training so often, the missus giving you grief for going training and a job that stops you from doing either one, striking a balance can seem very far away.
The solution is simple. Work when you have to work and leave it behind when you drive out the factory gates. Train when you can, apologise when you can’t. Drag a hoover around the house when you can, apologise when you can’t.
Keep those three balls in the air boys, who knows, you might even play until you’re as old as Aidan Ryan.