Unfit to Practise
Last year, before I started playing camogie, I thought I was in pretty good shape. I could run 7 or 8 miles and was getting used to handling hills. I could scramble up to the top of the Sugarloaf quickly and get my breath back within a minute or two. The thing is, I'm built for distance, not for speed, and camogie is more about speed. It's ages of standing around punctuated by minutes of terror and flat-out effort.
My team last year practised once a week for most of the year. There were sometimes that we went twice a week, but mostly it was once a week. Although we did some running drills early in the season, by the middle of the summer, our sessions were mostly pucking around and then playing matches.
My new team is an entirely different proposition. Although the team is at the same level (bottom of the pile Junior B), the standard is a good bit higher. I knew it was a different sort of team the first practise – the coach had to leave early. Not only did everyone play until the end of practise, we did sprints after we were done playing. Sprints. I don't think my old team would have ever done unsupervised sprints as we barely did the supervised ones.
Within two weeks of starting back to the training, my new team is training twice a week. The coach is on a fitness kick – he doesn't want to have to say in the middle of the season that we would have won a match had we not been unfit for the last 10 minutes. So he's working us hard – sprinting and interval drills with sit-ups interspersed. I no longer think I am fit – I know I'm completely unfit. Forget the fact that I can run 7 miles – on the camogie pitch, that means absolutely nothing.
Last Wednesday, I was afraid I might puke after practise. (And then I had to drive the 35 miles home.) I am inordinately proud of myself for completing that practise, for running out every drill, and for not puking.
At the Friday practise, he took it easy on us. We did mostly skill drills and then played a match. I like playing against my new teammates although I find it especially challenging. They've all been playing since they were 6 and are good. I am easily the worst one on the team.
The standard for skills and playing is again much higher than it was in Dublin. We had maybe 2 girls who could put the sliotar over the bar from the 45 m. line. On this team, I think there are maybe 2 girls who can't do it. (Me being one of them.) I am in awe of the way these girls can hit the ball. I am also in awe of the way they can move, can get away from markers, and can get a ball away under pressure.
On my old team, it was understood that you toned down the aggression and physicality at practise. You were seen to be unsporting if you hip-checked or jostled anyone. I always thought this did us a huge disservice as we were rarely able to match the physicality of the best teams in our league. It's like when the Irish play the Aussies in International Rules – it's much easier for the Aussies to tune down their violence a notch than it is for the Irish to kick it up a notch. (Of course, given the last match I was at, I think the Irish would have had to kick it up about 10 notches to be on a level playing field with those brutes.)
I don't think physicality during matches is going to be an issue with my new team. (If anything, I think giving up frees might become an issue.) I don't mind the hard hits during practise either. I wear my bruises as badges of honour and I hope, by the time the season starts, I won't be unfit to practise anymore.