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Dublin: 1°C Sunday 7 March 2021
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'Is pre-season really that bad? For the first time in a while I felt I was missing out'

Former Munster out-half Jonny Holland on his experience of the toughest few weeks for any rugby player.

Image: James Crombie

PRE-SEASON FOR RUGBY players is seen as a chore and that wouldn’t be far wrong.

Physically and mentally it can be one of the toughest times of the year after being on holidays and setting yourself up for a successful season. A lot of the hard work is done to prepare yourself for a gruelling season ahead, but is it really that bad?

For the first time in a while I had a feeling like I was missing out on something on 2 July.

Pre-season for Munster was back — new gear, fresh faces and a new challenge.

This year, Munster have changed their schedule a bit again. From what I understand and having spoken to some players they’ll be working hard on Monday and Tuesday, rest on Wednesday, and same again on Thursday and Friday before you can recoup for the weekend with another two days off. Doesn’t sound so bad does it?

During the season, players would get a mid-week day off too but it would consist of a lot of extras, watching matches and preparing for the next team to come.

Specialist positions would do a bit extra, any physio and mobility work would be done so you never really switch off. During pre-season a day off is genuinely a day off.

You might still get some casual recovery done but the day would be quite chilled, although some players would still have that fear of the next day’s conditioning.

Having weekends off is something that rugby players and their family and friends aren’t used to. Being able to plan weekends away and generally switch off without the mental pressure of looking into games is well and truly needed and it’s something I’m also enjoying from my break with Cork Constitution this pre-season.

The season can be long enough so having weekends off like a ‘normal’ job is a big positive to pre-season training.

With the weather that we’re having at the moment it can be a bit of a buzz to get out in the sun and work on your rugby and conditioning and follow it up with a swim somewhere outdoors.

You’d see from Instagram that the players try to get out to places like Killaloe, Kilkee, Blackrock in Galway and the 40 foot in Dublin. There’s nothing better than a bit of warm weather training, especially in Ireland.

On top of that, players know they’re getting in good shape which is a welcomed side effect to the tough training sessions.

You can look at pre-season with dread or you can see it as a challenge. It feels like it’s all hands on deck at times with players laid out across couches and bean bags whenever there’s an hour or two off, but this adds to the atmosphere and the team camaraderie when it’s time to get the boots on and get back to work.

It’s a tight time as a team and a time where you get to know a lot about each other. You don’t become a professional player by being afraid of some hard work.

Most guys get the work done and enjoy the extra bit of freedom even if the time spent on the pitch is physically demanding.

There’s also no selection issues. You can play some rugby and put your case forward for the first few warm-up games without having to look over your shoulder on a Tuesday or Thursday to see if a coach is grabbing you for a chat. The shackles are off in a sense.

Don’t get me wrong. Players will be sore from the day before and facing another tough physical and mental conditioning session. Sometimes it feels like you’re just surviving the session, preparing food, eating, washing gear, falling into bed and starting again.

There have been some memorable sessions throughout the years under different strength and conditioning coaches.

Each of the tough conditioning sessions can be explained for one reason or another. There’s ‘the one with the deck of cards’, ‘the tackling drill from hell’ etc.

Everyone will remember one session or another where they struggled massively. It’s the fear of the unknown that gets to the players, but games come around quickly again and it was rarely as bad as you thought it would be.

Maybe I miss the idea of it and not actually the training itself but there are pros and cons to each pre-season.

Let me know your own experiences below and if you have any questions don’t be afraid to ask.

You can follow Jonny’s journey over the next 12 weeks right here:

About the author:

Jonny Holland

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