A Week in the Life of the SWNTP: All quiet on the SWNTP front?

It has been exactly two months since the article about the 2012 Novotel Cup NT Playersin Luxembourg was posted on the website. Since then all seems to have gone quiet on the SWNTP front.

Maybe the disappointment of Luxembourg was just too much for everyone and they all decided to go off and pursue less stressful pastimes! Maybe all this talk of qualification for the Small Countries Division Final and European
B Division and ‘Vision 20:21’ was no more than hot air and the reality was much harder to take.

But then again. as a famous Scottish sporting hero once said, “Maybes aye….maybes naw!”

The truth is that the experience of Luxembourg was tough to take. It hurt everyone, but on reflection it came as a timely reality check which has forced us all to reflect. It’s easy to set out a vision or a performance target but there is no escaping from the fact that it takes sheer hard work to get there.

The players’ commitment has been challenged by this whole process. A few have considered their position and said that they can’t commit and left the squad. In each case it was a really tough decision to make and the players concerned should be commended for their honesty. The remaining players have reconfirmed their desire to work towards the agreed targets and now understand, even more than they did, that being a National Team player is a 24/7 responsibility. It’s not a persona that you take on once every three weeks or so.

At this point in the domestic season, as the league campaign moves towards play-off time and cup semi-finals loom on the horizon, it can be quite difficult for the players to hold this thought at the forefront of their minds. Club commitments take precedence, and rightly so, but at the same time each player has to be disciplined enough to act as a National Team player.

There have been four practice sessions since we returned from Luxembourg in early January. The focus has deviated slightly from the original plan following the review and reflection on performances at the Novotel Cup. While we still require to make technical improvements more emphasis is being placed on the thought processes that the players follow prior to any action.

In some ways it’s a bit like playing chess. In the initial stages a novice player will only focus on one move at a time and will be oblivious to the consequences of that move. If their opponent is more experienced then the likely outcome of the game is that they will lose. The more skillful player is able to recognise what is unfolding in front of them, to think several moves in advance and, as a result, to improve their chances of success. This was the ingredient that was missing for us in Luxembourg.

NT PlayerIt’s tough for the players because as well as carrying out physical actions they are constantly being asked to verbalise what is going on in their heads. That’s something they’re not comfortable with but who ever said that trying to achieve success in the world of performance sport was comfortable?

This theme will continue to be developed in a few weeks time when the squad comes together at The PEAK Centre, Stirling, for a camp from 6-8 April. It’s another opportunity to spend a concentrated period of time revising some of the previous work done and building in the new. If we can reach the same level of performance that we achieved at Christmas but add the extra ingredient of being better ‘chess players’ then we head towards the Small Countries Championships qualifier in June on a more positive footing.

It won’t be easy for anyone…and it certainly won’t be quiet on the SWNTP front!

Craig Faill
SWNTP Head Coach