My last column called on Leitrim supporters during this period of rebuilding to allow this young team the space and understanding to experience the inevitable defeats that lie ahead.
However, the management and players must show something in return. And that is progress. I haven’t seen any progress this season. Each defeat must be a learning experience and I haven’t witnessed much learning yet either.
In each game, we must see the minimising of the mistakes that contributed to the previous loss combined with the execution of skills and physical application honed on the training field. I have not seen this either.
Instead, it seems that each defeat has been received like a body blow, expelling the wind of confidence from the squad like a sucker punch to the gut.
That is a dangerous, cancerous state.
Players need confidence and belief as much as they do oxygen and it is the job of the management team to ensure that their state of mind allows for set-backs and is resilient enough to bounce back when the next challenge presents itself.
A prolonged and hopeless losing period can bring with it a stink that’s harder to shake than the smell of dog shit from your shoes on a hot summer’s day.
We are in a vicious cycle and someone urgently needs to stick a crossbar in the spokes. It may cause the squad to be thrown over the handlebars, but sometimes you need such a jolt to realise change of the highest order is required.
The squad is young and inexperienced and I will forgive them a hundred defeats if only the management team can shake things up from its current state of dejection.
Winning and losing is a part of sport and you must understand how to take something from both. The key to riding out a losing streak is to take learning from it.
Leitrim just aren’t doing that.
So how can we change the situation?
The management and squad need to find some agreed individual and collective goals that can identify, in the absence of winning, what personal and team success looks like. It starts with goal setting.
Small goals must be set to allow the players both seek and see progress.
For example, against Limerick on Sunday we need to win more of our kick-outs than we lose. Having seen only the Laois game, I spoke to loyal supporters that travelled for both the Antrim and Carlow games.
This is an area that needs urgent work and can be achieved in a relatively short period of time through dedicated practice and understanding of what is expected from both goalkeeper and outfielders.
Discipline needs to be tightened in every facet of the team’s preparation and performance. From time keeping, to diet, to concentration in training, to the refusal to concede frees in games.
Work ethic needs to be upped. Significantly. Responsibility needs to be taken. Confidence needs to be rebuilt.
Things can, will, and are going wrong. Accept that and stay in the now.
Stay focused on the process …. forget about promotion and stop worrying about what is going to happen in New York.
The future will take care of itself if you take the present in hand.
We need to foster resilience and belief.
There is an old Native American proverb that speaks of a young tribe member asking his elder for advice for he fears a darkness that is building inside of him.
The elder explains that every man has two wolves within, fighting for control. The dark wolf brings with him despair and doubt, fear, loathing, anger and destruction. The white wolf brings with him light and hope, belief, resilience, progress, and a brighter future.
“But which one wins,” the young warrior asks.
“The one I feed the most,” replies his chief.