Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The art of the sporting cliche

Cliches abound in sport. If anyone disagrees with that statement, then they clearly aren't snatching defeat from the jaws of victory enough during the business end of the season. Or being forced to dig deep enough during the relegation dogfight.

A classic sporting cliche is all too often trotted out when a squad is unveiled for a match or tour. "There is a nice blend of youth and experience," bleat the pundits. Zzzzzz.

But here's a blend that I think is working at the moment, at least in Bath Rugby's case: traditional one-for- all-and-all-for-one bonding methods and bang-up-to-date training techniques.

I rattled on last week about how Gary Gold and his team are using scientific methods to monitor each player's performance at training. In today's pages, Matt Banahan gives that regime his seal of approval, even though it involves a camcorder being pointed at him should he so much as breathe in the gym.

"We need to make sure we know the difference between fiction and reality," Toby Booth said to me earlier this week when I asked him about the painstaking measurements that are taking place. "Everybody knows where they are, rather than it being reputation and myth."

That's the science. But what about the old school bonding tricks?

On Sunday, the Bath squad were driven to an Army camp in Wales. Since then, the players' mobile phone use has been severely restricted and they've been involved in traditional team-building exercises as well as some frank discussions.

Yesterday they were constructing rafts, lugging cannons around and abseiling off cliffs. Best of all, they were made to attempt some archery while on the cusp of exhaustion.

In the weeks leading up to his departure from Bath, Sir Ian McGeechan kept insisting that the culture at Bath was good and that the foundations were laid for a strong future.

But it seems to me that Gold and his team have set about achieving a wholesale overhaul of the club's ethos. And on the basis of last season's performance, you could argue that that's no bad thing.

A recurring theme from the new coaches is that it's a clean slate and that a line's been drawn in the sand.
Perhaps those cliches have something going for them after all.

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