No successful team in the history of rugby has had a total sweetheart for a head coach. You win no prizes for letting your players walk all over you.
Sure players can be given a sense of empowerment – they can have their own sub-committees for organising a social event or for fining each other when they are wearing the wrong colour of pants among other arbitrary misdemeanours – but the coach has the final say on everything. Sometimes they have to be tough. And when the celebration or the heartbreak of the last season has faded in memory, there is only pre-season to wait for.
You see, pre-season is the one time when your coach can be as maniacal as possible; as hard-nosed and brutal with your training as they want. So whatever you have done in the last season, they can bring torturous retribution down upon you in pre-season, in the name of ‘conditioning’.
Here are just a few ways they could do it.
BEING BANG ON TREND
Every summer there is some new fitness fad. A few years back it was wrestling, or the MMA-style short bursts of certain exercises, interspersed with wrestling. Because when you’re sweaty and broken and wearing a tank top and the ground is dry, the last thing you want to do is tussle, arms flailing like a drunken octopus, with your greasy pals.
Tyres and ropes are fashionable again too. Some have been known to run around, only able to breathe through a snorkel for goodness sake.
What will it be this year: hula hoops and running in Welly boots?
TAKING YOU TO THE BEACH
The big units hate nothing more than a trot on the sand. Everything goes without sure footing: your ankles, calves and lower back are in for a hell of a time should you be dragged to the sand.
Everything hurts all the more, too. When you are raw and in pain, the last thing you need are crushed shells between your toes. Or to run into the sea after you’ve done ten sprints and fallen down the dunes a few times. Hasselhoff never had it so tough.
BRINGING OUT ALL THE EQUIPMENT
When you are breathing out of your backside and there is an intricate web of equipment in front of you, ranging from 8m Gilbert Speed Ladders and Mitre Agility poles to Gilbert 23kg tackle bags and Gilbert International Contact Tops, you can be caught wondering just what the hell you are supposed to be doing. Thinking, plus a hard slog, can be excruciating.
If you halt proceedings in any way, be it to ask a question or because you’ve tangled yourself up in the maze of kit, you are only making the end of the session worse. Because no matter how new school and cutting edge a coach is, they always have the ability to pull out an old fashioned, straight up and down nightmare of sprints and long-distance runs at the end of a session, should they so wish.
You’ll have already fought gravity in pre-season, having carried team-mates back and forth and picked up and thrown plenty of heavy bags. However, when you are taken to a hill and told to drag your own hide up it, over and over again, it’s just you versus the incline and it hurts.
You can never get used to pre-season. The terrain and parameters of your games and drills will always change. You have to adapt, and ensuring you have the latest Canterbury 2015 Phoenix Club Moulded Rugby Boots will certainly be a must have in your armory. The uncertainty almost makes it fun. But with a hill, you know where the end point is and you have to tilt your head back to see it. It is the horror of knowing.
JUST A COACH AND A WHISTLE
Of course, while there is all that, there is also the stripped-back menace of scrambling out of the changing rooms to see nothing but the pitch, a coach and a whistle.
You can hope that a ball will be produced, but if one isn’t then you are almost certain the work will be hard and monotonous. This is the worst of all. Because there is nowhere to hide and nothing refreshing to do. You pick yourself up and run and run and run and fall down and crawl and then run again.
If you also happen to see your coach smiling during this session as well, then hey, you know they have finally achieved revenge.