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The Stale Patch in Sport

The stale stage of sport
Often in sports people go through what’s known as “The Stale Patch” but this patch is never talked about and can be quite difficult for some people.

Personally myself I’ve recently went through a stale patch lasting nearly three months before I eventually gave in and let running take a back seat in my life.

I have never really talked about the reason I stopped running 2 months ago. It all started from summer this year my trainer gave me everything as did my training group but I use to dread going training and to races. It wasn’t the fact that I thought I was going to do bad it was more the fact that my head was making me wonder did I really want to do the sport or what was the reason I did the sport.

I eventually gave in and went back hurling and football in the hope that it would bring some motivation to get back running properly, I had made a deal with my parents who encouraged me every step of the way to keep me running and training hard. The deal consisted that once I got up and done my run every morning I could play GAA but this didn’t work.

I got back on the playing field and my love for my old game of GAA came back and it took over the athletics again. I had every intention to get back fit and train hard for my cross country but when the time came to start the hard work I just couldn’t face into it. I couldn’t bring myself to get my runners on and go and do the heavy miles I use to the year before, my drive for athletics had gone it was a sport that was not for me anymore.

I think these days in sport that they have become 24/7 lifestyles not hobbies. For an inter county hurler or footballer, they train 3 times a week in the field and then 2 or 3 times in the gym but it doesn’t stop there. The majority of inter county set ups now have dietitians so the players are meant to commit to eating and sleeping right 7 days a week. Along with none or little social life due to the huge commitments with club and county these days! Some players even struggle to go on holidays due to trying to stay home for games! It’s a profession not a hobby these days.

I found out when I was training hard for my athletes that I was training 7 days a week, some days twice a day and then I was trying to look after my diet and keep my weight down. The ‘hobby’ became a lifestyle which I enjoyed at the start but as I began to distance myself from athletes it became a forced effort and my commitment wasn’t there and the lifestyle became a hatred for a reason I can’t quite come to terms with.

The battle with myself and my own head was the hardest of them all, the fact that everyone around me were encouraging me and knew I had the talent to do well but the voice in my head had me on my bed in tears wondering where do I go next? How can I get myself right? Am I really this person who is going to give up after everything, after how far I’ve come? Do I really want to let my friends, family, coach, training partners and girlfriend down? Why couldn’t I get back running?

Those last two inner question were the ones that had me on my bed close to tears and the thing is I still don’t know the answer to them, two months on and I still know I’ve let people down but I feel a lot better now that I took a break from running and playing soccer and GAA but I guess I’ll never be able to say I didn’t disappoint those people because the day I stopped I sat on my bed in tears over the fact I had disappoint the people who believed in me.

The stale patch really hit me tonight as I went back running and I was dropping off pace with the person I was running with, but I couldn’t find the motivation or drive to get back up to the person or pass him because I just lost the love for running.

The past few weeks have really hit me hard that my stale patch is lighting up but my head just still holds me back from trying to push hard when I do run. I’ve spoken to people about this issue and one man Noel Marshall sent me a reply saying that we are humans we are here to reproduce, breathe and live a good lifestyle, he also stated that sports are a hobby and when that hobby becomes a struggle you just have to do what makes you happy.

99.9% of sports people would have hit this stale patch and some may hit it more than once, some lifestyles without sport can be demanding enough without the added stress or demand of sport so when the fun stops I guess it’s time to just take a step back, talk to someone and see how you can try work through the stale patch.

I guess what I’m trying get across to everyone is that we all go through “Stale Patches” so talk to someone about it they will help because they have went through one too. Possibly the contributor to depression in sport could be due to the stale patch and people not talking about it or knowing that it’s common in sports. Tonight I was back running and it felt good but tough to do, the stale patch will pass but if you can’t be happy and do the sport maybe it’s time you take a break and try find the love for the sport again.