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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Jersey number or life role

For some time now I have been trying to find some meaning in the work I do with football teams. Working with large numbers of ego driven sportsmen and their entourage may sound appealing but the work is tough at the best of times. The best way I can think to describe it is using the words of the Cold Play song, Talk, "And I feel like they are talking in a language I don't speak, and they are talking it to me".

And now, some 7 years after I was told by the coach of the first team I ever worked with at the innocent age of just 22, "Why the fuck do you want to do this, the boys will have a field day with you, they will hit on you, want to sleep with you and treat you like shit?", as I contemplate my future as a sports dietitian, all of a sudden things have become crystal clear for me. Male team sport is simple a metaphor for the way men work and behave in life, all you need to know is what position they played. The information I have gathered from hundreds of players, coaches and support staff has actually given me all the information on men I will need for the rest of my life.

See if any of these descriptions sounds familiar to you-

Fullbacks (1 or 15) - often a humble type. Has the opportunity to display pure athletic brilliance but also fucks it up completely on occasions which tends to keep him nice and grounded.

Wingers (2,5, 13, 11) - spends plenty of time on another planet. Often not part of the core "male team" as visiting another world. Born quick so has not needed to spend any time developing other core skills and hence fairly non committal at the best of times.

Centres (12,14, 3,4) - has the rare opportunity to be both big and buffed and for this reason, rule the roost, particularly with younger players. Have successfully managed to do as little as they may like on the field while still scoring plenty of tries. Popular with the ladies and frequently spotted shirtless. Parade around the club and in life in general, always getting what they want. Suit self employment or modelling.

5/8 (10, 6) - a unique individual. Success depends on his halfback and hence is often a shy type, with amazing skills that are only fully exposed once you know them. The quiet achiever and extremely trustworthy. Makes a good captain, team leader or boss.

Half (9,7) - a self absorbed type. Never makes a good captain as too worried about how his own game will fare. Often become coaches in his other life to achieve the goals he never made in rugby himself. Intense, absent and focused. Works best alone.

Flanker (6/7) - likes to think he is different from the pack, especially as his position does not even exist in league. A nice match between brains and brawn although this should never be mentioned as this type is confident enough without compliments.

Lock (8) - any man who chooses to go it alone at the back rather than stick it out with the boys is a cult leader. His confidence demands respect from both men and swooning women which can be sickening if left unman aged. Best for coaches to tone this one down before you lose control of him forever

2nd row (4,5, 12, 11) - the shy insecure type, which is surprising given their size. They prefer to stick together with their mates rather than go it alone so never try and rely on this one in an emergency, they will always let you down. The gentle giants

Hooker (2,9) - the clown of the group and always up for a laugh. Nothing is taken seriously but a true team man. Anyone who is going to put their head where he does is surely a brave man and the one we would all pick if a war was looming- yes?

Front row (1,3, 8, 10) -these boys like it kept extremely simple-"go hard and straight" is their motto. Are disinterested in complex situations that require thinking and much prefer instant gratification to any long term investments. Are prepared to risk everything for the boys and this is their mantra for life in general.

So next time you are with a rugby player; ex or current, the only thing you need to ask him is; "What position did you play?", because it will tell you everything you need to know.

And to the coach who told me, after I had spent a season of my own time helping his team reach the highest level it could condescendingly emailed me to say; "You are doing a pretty good job. Keep improving and you will eventually get results" , I think I just got them.

Please note, any likeness to real players is coincidental only!