When a nation’s sports administration falls asleep on the job can it still expect player’s loyalty?
I just read an article in a Irish publication that revealed the news of Ireland Women’s Rugby Team advertising for a part-time/fixed term coach. Yes, their national squad has woken up to the fact that the Six Nations tournament is but a few short months away and yes, they would like to be competitive. You don’t need a long memory to recall Ireland’s disappointing performance in the 2017 World Cup that they so proudly hosted, or look much further in the rear view mirror to reflect on the glory that was theirs in 2015 when they won their second Six Nations back to back. Oh, and by the way they beat the current World Champions New Zealand in the 2014 World Cup along the way.
This is a classic story of the rise and fall of a national team that we’ve seen in other sports and other countries—the England Hockey team comes immediately to mind going from the shadows to Olympic glory in the span of two Olympic cycles. And there’s the inspiring story of Canada’s AFL team’s journey from bootstrapping to lacing up for their country and being the best overseas team in an International Cup. This is sport, and certainly in the women’s game some nations and teams have experienced meteoric changes towards professionalism with contracts, sponsorship and media coverage. That’s all fine and dandy but what about the amateur players whose teams have similar expectations? Their commitment and sacrifices for their country comes at a price too. I can hear you say; who wouldn’t want to play for their country and that most athletes would give their life to experiencing, even once.
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I would like to believe that for the most part clubs and countries are slowly waking up to this new era of women’s sport and stepping up in their commitment to their teams. But the news from Ireland suggests otherwise. I can understand the smaller nations or minor clubs not having the resources but we’re talking about a leading national squad being in the game. This is not a local club where the pub landlord is unable to get away to coach the village’s weekend warriors in a local league!
I would also like to believe that there is as much respect for amateur women players at this level as there is for the men’s team, but I guess I’m dreaming here. I don’t see an ad for a coach for Ireland’s men’s team a few weeks ahead of their Six Nations.
And there’s the sacrifice too, I know it’s a much bantered word in sport but women’s dreams and ambitions are just as meaningful as the men’s. Their jobs count just as much as do their families and the time and money they spend on training and maintaining a level of fitness so that they are ready to be called up at a moment’s notice. And yes, in the case of the Irish squad it could be a moment.
It seems too much to expect that sport’s commitment would match the players even though the expectation to be competitive is likely on a par. The two don’t seem to go hand in hand. You would also think that taking a hard knock in a major tournament, especially on home turf, would be a kick up the proverbial, but then we are talking about the women’s game.
Shame then on any nation that doesn’t wake up and smell the coffee. It’s about time that commitment worked both ways because we all know that performance reflects practice and preparation. Team and player morale and confidence go hand in hand with the right leadership and the results will show it. So I’m here to give that proverbial kick to nations who have lost sight of their commitment, their sport’s development and the opportunities that their nation has with so many talented sportswomen who are dreaming every day of putting on a team shirt.
Ireland Women’s Rugby is but one example of how a team could reverse its form and make its country proud again but they cannot do it alone—it takes a village.