- Lifestyle & Sports
- 04 Mar 22
One thing that all high-level, winning sporting teams have in common is consistency, says Emma Starr of Galway WFC, in the first instalment of her new hotpress.com blog, She Shoots, She Scores. But consistency isn't something you can achieve overnight...
One thing that all high-level, winning sporting teams have in common is consistency – but that doesn’t happen overnight. The bad news is that it takes hard work, suckers…
Let’s take a step back to last season.
Girls would rush to training whether straight from work, having been at college all day, or relaxing at home. We’d trickle in, little by little, with some getting to the physio early to take care of any niggles or pains from the previous week’s match. I mean, you can only take so many knees to your thigh before you need to get a rub down pre-training…
But one thing was the same – we would all come together from our different lives to spend an hour and thirty minutes with our team-mates. If we had a bad day at work, we’d still show up. If we had a fight with our partner and had to leave to make the one-hour drive to the pitch, we would still do it. Listening to Enya sing ‘May It Be’ the entire ride, to wallow in our sorrows.
Through The Pain Barrier
This is how training tends to work.
After arriving – either at an astro pitch on the outskirts of Galway or one of the NUIG fields – we spend a few minutes socialising, catching up on the latest gossip, figuring out what “really” went down when words were exchanged during the last match – and what we might do for a team bonding session next week.
Then, we get right into it. Captains make the call and off we go. Into our warmups, high knees, side shuffle, agility work, slowly ramping up the intensity so we can start making all-out sprints in training. Hey, if you thought Michael Flatley could get his jump high, you haven’t seen us yet. Our warm-up ends with some sprints, getting our heart rate higher, as we move on to the technical work.
After all, what’s the point of being able to run fast if we can’t control the bloody ball! So we do individual ball work: dribbling, passing (the point is to do it accurately), making runs off the ball – all of the things we need to do during a match. Sure, it’s just training – but we act like it’s the real deal. We know we can’t slack off in front of our own team mates – let alone with our fans, management, and families watching us on the big day.
Once we get through the warm-ups, technical work, and positional drills, it’s time for the best part of everyone’s training (or day) – the scrimmage. Okay, that’s an American term, but I don’t care. Where do you think I come from, huh?
We line-up in either 4v4 or 5v5 teams with one off (usually doing some fitness work on her own) – and this is where it really ramps up. We get competitive, make sliding challenges, whinge at the ‘ref’ if there is a bad call, and push to win the game.
And then the whistle blows.
Great, training is over — and it went well. We’re all tired, legs sore, and we feel better for it. But wait — did he just say ‘get on the line?’
Sure did. Even though we’re nearly at the 90-minute mark, pre-season is for pushing yourself. I mean, in reality, the whole season is for pushing yourself. But to come in feeling confident, prepared, and ready to tackle some of the bigger teams in the league, we need to work for it. And part of that work includes the dreaded “f” word – fitness.
Yes, people do fitness on their own in the off-season. You go to the gym, lift some weights, hit the treadmill, and do a few core-busting planks. But the real fitness is when you are sprinting side-by-side with the fastest girl on your team and hoping you can stay with her. The real test is when you can’t do one more run, you can’t catch your breath, you’re doubled over, and the coach says ‘10 seconds until the next sprint’. And you go again. This is where the lads who say they’re up for a game o’ footy would back down.
You’re running day in and day out, putting your body on the line, and grinding for pre-season training and scrimmages that don’t count towards your season. So why do we try so hard? Why give your all every training session, when your legs physically can’t make another full-length sprint?
Because we remember the games where we almost won and fell short. We remember the times when we had a fantastic week in training and won the match, and then dropped down a level the following week. Being consistent is doing the work when you don’t want to. Who wants to run 120s – that’s the length of the pitch, dummies – do continuous 1v1s, and push your body to the limit?
Realistically, almost no one. Sure, you have the freak athletes that can make everything look easy. They seem to run faster, jump higher, and make everything come naturally. But for the rest of us who are here for the love of the game, and know we have to put work in on our own every training session, and every game, to keep our starting or substitute spot in the squad, being consistent is much more than just a word that coaches use.
We Pushed Harder, Ran Faster
Being consistent is the difference-maker between 5th and 1st place in the league. We never want the feeling brought on by the 1-1 Ireland vs. Macedonia draw in ‘99. Being consistent is the difference between having a happy team with members who are willing to give everything they have for the person next to them on the field, or a squad that is questioning whether they can really aspire to becoming the best team in the league.
I mean, we should know in Galway. Last year, we had ups and downs throughout the season. After a few good games and a strong start, the team hit a dark spot. Players left, management changed, and the morale was at what felt like an all-time low. Maybe not the worst it could be, but the girls were questioning what was going to happen? Would there even be a team? And amid those uncertainties, the big question was: could we even hope to contend?
Fast forward to the last match of the season – away to Peamount United, in arguably the most thrilling game of the entire season, we beat them 5-2, when they were a virtual shoo-in to win the league. With a crowd that was predominantly there to watch Peas raise the cup once more, we showed how good we were capable of being when it all came together. Not just for one minute, not just for one half, but for the whole match.
Yes, we did give up two goals in the first 20 minutes. It seemed like the script was written. The storybook ending was on its way – they just needed to hold on for 70 more minutes. And it seemed like they’d do more than just hold on, considering we were down, and it felt like the starting whistle had just blown.
But we rallied – harder than we ever had before. Despite being two-nil down, it never got in our heads. We pushed harder, ran faster, and fought more than we had in the entire season. Despite nothing being on the line for us, we played like it was a title game.
So just imagine if we had that fight, cohesiveness, desire, and hunger for the entire season. We would go from being a mid-tier team to a contender for the top three. Who knows? Could we be the football equivalent of the next female Irish rugby team who win against the All Blacks?
With that experience of beating the first-place team by three goals under our belts – snatching the title from their grasp and handing it to Shelbourne in the process – why can’t we make a run for the title ourselves? What’s really stopping us?
All it takes is consistency to unlock our potential. And if we achieve that, we can have a real go at winning the Women's National League.
Stay tuned for the 2022 season.
• Emma Starr is from Philadelphia in the USA. She completed an internship at the Manchester International Football Academy having graduated from George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2016. She has played football in the UK, the US, Ireland, Denmark and Austria. She joined Galway WFC in 2018 to play professional football, and played for a season with the west-siders. She subsequently signed for FFC Vorderland in Austria and played for a season there, making 17 first-team appearances. She returned to Galway last year, becoming one of the team’s most influential players. She has signed again for the 2022 season. Emma is a journalist and writer as well as a strength and conditioning coach.
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 13 May 22