Pre-season fun for a rugby player

Jonny Gray of Exeter Chiefs during an Exeter Chiefs training session at Sandy Park on Dec 9, 2020 i

Jonny Gray of Exeter Chiefs during an Exeter Chiefs training session at Sandy Park on Dec 9, 2020 in Exeter, Devon, England (Photo by Phil Mingo/PPAUK) - Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

It’s that time of year again, Sidmouth RFC is in full swing and getting some good graft done. 
Pre-season is possibly the hardest aspect of being a rugby player, at any level really. With some of the most gruelling sessions and weeks put together by the coaches and strength and conditioners, a necessary evil to becoming a better individual and unit for the coming season. 
The now mandatory off-season for professionals couldn’t have passed any quicker for me, with the rest and refresh of these week flying by. In fact, we were usually presented with some touch up fitness and weights sessions after two weeks of the break. 
You never want to be the person showing up and being off the pace, it took many a player months of hard work and showing face to shake off the seemingly poor start to pre-season. 
My personal story of turning up to my first pre-season at Chiefs started horrifically, having only had a 10-day break between finishing with the Dragons and starting with the Chiefs.  
I sauntered into Sandy Park at 8am that morning, picked up my bag and popped on an open spot in the changing room… big mistake… a certain Chris Bentley had sat in this seat for several years, and he simply drop kicked my bag and said, ‘find another spot kid’. 
The day only got worse as when the then head of S&C, Paddy Anson, gleefully announced we’d get straight into testing for strength, and fitness. As a slightly plump and under-prepared young man, that first pre-season was a tough pill to swallow, ending up in fat club and doing extras to try and lose some timber.  
It set the tone for the next 11 Chief’s pre-seasons and I never turned up again quite so unaware of what was expected of me. 
From testing to the first contact session or the Exmouth beach sessions, there isn’t a great deal to lift your heart. The one and only ‘golden carrot’ that comes with every off-season at Exeter is the ‘warm weather training’ each year, crafting and solidifying the bonds and friendships that stand the squad in good stead for time ahead. 
Those trips have stories that will be recalled for years to come, but not in this column. 
Strangely, pre-season training would always pop into my mind a few weeks before the end of the season…. that’s how much it would affect me mentally and I know others too, the dread of the beach or testing in the first week would often be discussed 2 or 3 months before and after.  
How are you going to approach the block? How much individual training have you done? Or who hasn’t lifted a finger? Plenty of questions, constantly rattling around in your head. 
After such a long break for local rugby seasons, these Sidmouth sessions leading into league are even more important. Preparing the body and mind for the work to come, I always look at this period as the best you will feel all year, even with the gruelling sessions, there isn’t the factor of 80-minute games and the impact they have on the body.  
The foundations for your house need to be solid, the only difference is you dig most of them up every year and relay them. 

Richard Capstick of Exeter Chiefs during an Exeter Chiefs training session at Sandy Park on Dec 9,

Richard Capstick of Exeter Chiefs during an Exeter Chiefs training session at Sandy Park on Dec 9, 2020 in Exeter, Devon, England (Photo by Phil Mingo/PPAUK) - Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK


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