OK so basically, this is a bit of a ‘full circle’ experience for me. I played footy in Primary School and wasn’t really very good at it (which is the basis for my ‘Should I try Tae Kwondo’ article, but that one is for another day). After deciding that it wasn’t for me, I decided that I wanted to have nothing to do with AFL or the people who followed it. In fact you could go so far as to say I was anti-footy… until a few years ago.
It was late 2012, I had done quite well with my time in martial arts and had just started training MMA. The Sportsbet app also got released and I realised that I could gamble on football matches and it made them more interesting to watch. As I made more bets (and money) I found myself becoming more and more interested in the nations game, and even started to occasionally attend Crows home games from time to time.. fast forward to 2015 and my housemate Tom was still out playing footy at our home town club, McLaren Vale. I started to go out on occasion, just to watch..
I had long been of the opinion that footy players were just a bunch of ego fueled meat heads, running around in short shorts. Ironically this coming from me who trained MMA 3 times a week. MMA is literally rolling around on the floor cuddling another man (a struggle snuggle). Because I had injured my neck a few times at MMA I wasn’t training as much. I wanted to get my cardio fitness up, so when a couple of the guys who I had played footy with 14 years ago suggested I come out for a run next season I thought… ‘fuck it, why not?’
From humble beginnings, a hero emerges (well not quite)
Contrary to popular belief, football is actually a fairly involved game. I mean the basis of it is simple.. score more points than the other team, but that is much easier said than done! Not playing a sport for 14 years also brings with it a host of ‘hurdles’ to overcome. For starters, I didn’t really know any of the rules. There are some obvious ones but for the most part it was a guessing game. Then came the whole skills aspect.. I started off doing pre-season and literally couldn’t kick a ball. I tried to mark the ball with my face (a couple of times) and actually managed to knock myself out taking an uncontested mark once.. But this didn’t deter me.
Add to all this, the fact that McLaren have a huge turnout of players for the year, giving the B Grade Coach a choice of 12 people for spots on the bench in Round 1! Still I persevered, twice a week come rain, hail or shine and I’d be out on the track, slowly getting better (slowly being the operative word there).
With all this I was thrown into a culture which I had never expected, the overwhelming support and generally positive attitudes of all the people around me helped me persevere and stay mentally strong… could I have been wrong about these ego fueled meat heads?? Round 10 rolled on, and I had started being picked as an emergency for games (which to me was just as exciting as being picked haha). I remember standing in the change rooms chatting to the trainers as the guys went out to warm up. The Coach walks in and punches me in the side, “got your gear?” he asked… Assuming he wanted me to run water or something similar I grinned and said “yeah its in the car.” He responded “well go get it, you’re playing…”
He had to repeat himself because I thought he was joking, but then I ran out, grabbed my gear and got ready. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of achievement while quietly shitting myself.. what if I fucked up? More importantly what if I actually got the ball and had to do something?! Much to everyone’s (including my own) surprise, I went out and played a pretty good game of footy. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do anything earth shattering, but I just played solid, 100% footy (or so I’m told). I then played out the end of the season until finals, where I qualified but didn’t quite make the cut. I remember some of the boys saying I must be spewing that I was only emergency for finals but I honestly wasn’t bothered. I was just happy to be a part of something bigger. Whether it was running water, playing or just helping out in the kitchen, there is a lot to be said for being part of a pack. Part of a family.
The Good Bits:
- Great for increasing cardio fitness.
- Depending on the club, supports a strong family and community culture.
- Builds a good base of transferable skills for other sports/activities.
- Learning and new skill is fun and rewarding.
- Most clubs have some kind of event where you get to dress up and wear ladies clothes.
- Footy shorts are one of the most comfortable articles of clothing for general daily wear.
The Not-So Good Bits:
- Muscle soreness was a bastard for me – using lots of muscles I wasn’t used to.
- Not getting picked isn’t much fun, but it does make even sweeter when you do work hard and get there.
- Training in pouring, freezing cold rain can eat a bag… you do get used to it though.
- To do it properly it is quite a time commitment, 3 days a week minimum, more if you want to play at the top level (see training links below).
2017 & Beyond..
So now that I have a taste for the game, and can kick a ball in a straight line, there is a new goal. A Grade. It’s not going to be an easy feat, but with the pre-season training we are going through this year I don’t think I could be any better prepared. To follow my progress or to have a look at what training is involved have a look at:
- Pre-Season Diet (Cut)
- Pre-Season Stage 1 Training
- Pre-Season Stage 2 Strength Training