Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters, beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
So get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times, they are a-changin’
Bob Dylan – Times They Are A-Changing
We know the times are a-changing…
…but so are the rooms as well.
The changing rooms.
And the Home changing room in particular…
Rowland Winter kindly invited me into The Butts to take a look at the work that is currently being undertaken on the Home changing room as he thought it would perhaps make for an interesting topic for the blog.
I have to say, it’s probably the one post I’ve most looked forward to writing as it’s given me a chance to see an area of the club I’ve never had access to before. On match days I always walked past the entrance to the changing rooms on the way to the loos or to the Arena Bar and invariably I’ve taken a sneaky look through, imagining what it must be like in there as the players make their final preparations prior to kick off.
Even at my age, there’s still a childhood wonder about it all and it’s hard not to feel in awe of the players at that moment. So the chance to actually look inside the changing rooms was too good an opportunity to pass over.
It might seem odd to some, but I did feel as if I was in a strange way trespassing.
I’ve supported Coventry for a long, long time and Cov has an importance in my life…and to walk into the empty changing rooms and just look around created a feeling not unlike that when you walk into a church and are overtaken with a desire to whisper…a combination of respect bordering on reverence, I guess.
It’s a uniquely personal thing – to find myself alone, standing in the Coventry changing room, surrounded by pegs above which were the names of players who have already become so familiar to us – Stankovich, Snyman, Grace, Wheatcroft, Dyer and so on. Heroes in the making.
A great experience, if not a tad unnerving. This was very much their territory and I had the sense I didn’t really belong there…
I took some photos and left fairly quickly.
But enough of that…
Above are photos of the inside of the Away changing room, other than the first which is self-explanatory!
I’ve included this because the Home dressing room was pretty similar prior to the current alterations, so when you see what the Home changing room looks like now, you can get a sense of just how much has changed. The Home changing room has a little ‘annexe’ where the massage table is, but there’s not a great deal of difference.
The Away room is pretty much as I would have expected…basic and functional but little else.
I should add, though, that the Away changing room is going to undergo some alterations itself fairly shortly too, but whereas the changes being made to the Home changing room are to provide Coventry with facilities befitting a side with aspirations of Championship rugby, the changes to the Away room are going to be made for a very different reason.
If you look at the second photo from the left, a divide coming out from the centre of the wall with the window and running parallel to the long wall will be erected. This will create two smaller changing areas and in effect prevent players changing against the longer left hand wall from communicating with those changing opposite them.
Psychologically, this automatically creates a divide and the dynamics of the room changes considerably. In addition, in the photo that’s second to the right, the back wall is to be moved further in towards where the massage table is. This is to provide additional space in the room on the other side of the wall (the medical/physios room) but at the same time it will clearly impact on the space available in the Away dressing room.
Cov aren’t going to make things too welcoming for any opposition this season, that’s for sure.
And so to the Home changing room…
The video above is of the Home changing room. And apologies for the dust on the lens – my photography is rather like those Away changing rooms – basic and functional.
The differences between the two areas are immediately obvious, aren’t they?
Each player will have their own self-contained area with their own name above the peg. I can only imagine that this helps bring players together, creating the feeling that they are all very much part of one team. It looks professional and if it looks professional then there’s every chance you’ll act accordingly. The first thing I’d do on making the first team is tweet a picture of the shirt on the peg with my name over it…alongside everyone else’s. Priceless….
‘This is Coventry’ is emblazoned across one wall and as the players see that they’ll be able to look across the room and feel proud to be part of one united team – there are no barriers or divisions in this changing room, either physical or emotional.
In order to ensure that the areas between the partitions provided the space for the players to change, a couple of the more generously sized players were asked to try them out for size during the planning stage…now who would they have been, I wonder?
It looks and feels a far more professional environment in comparison to the Away room. It isn’t quite finished yet and there is still some work to be done on the ice bath and shower areas, but you can get a feel for how it is shaping up and how it will look once complete.
It would be wrong of me not to mention that all this work, as far as I am aware, is being done in-house. Roger Pulley, a long time supporter, is the man responsible for most of the craftsmanship and it seems to be very much a labour of love for him. However, Roger is extremely self-effacing and, despite all of his efforts, he is very quick to point out that this is not down to him alone. Everyone chips in, from the lady who brings him a cuppa, to those who provide him with a lunch and the many others like Eric Richardson who lend him his support. There aren’t many better examples of the Cov family pulling together.
Indeed, there was another supporter varnishing the partitions when I arrived…these supporters give of their time so readily and although the club are very, very grateful for the work they do, most supporters aren’t aware that this is going on. Perhaps I should get the all names of those involved from Roger and add them to the post at a later date…
Now here’s something I didn’t know before…and it’s another insight into how Rowland Winter and his coaches are proving themselves to be so astute when it comes to man-management.
A frequently asked question last year was how players not in the match day squad are kept motivated. Here’s one example of this in action this season…
The team for the following Saturday is selected on a Tuesday – which I don’t think was the case last year. On a Wednesday, the names of the 15 players selected will go above the appropriate pegs in the dressing room and those players, and only those players, will be allowed to change in the Home room for Thursday’s training – everyone else, including reserves have to change in the Away changing room.
It’s not hard to see the logic behind this…those selected feel part of something special…15 players chosen to do a job. It creates a sense of pride and of belonging – that ‘band of brothers’ many of us talked about last season. And of course those not selected, well what better motivation is there to work your socks off to get yourself in the Home changing room with your name above your peg. It is something to wrk towards and to aspire to.
It might be that that’s the norm across other clubs, but I don’t think it is. I was a fairly decent club cricketer in my callow youth and had this been in operation in the clubs I played for and I’d found myself in the 2nd X1, I would have done my damnedest to get myself back in with the big boys. It adds a real competitive edge to selection which, if handled carefully, can be channelled positively onto the pitch.
On a Saturday, the replacements obviously change in the Home changing room as the Away one is no longer available.
But it doesn’t stop there…the names of the players remain above the pegs until they are no longer selected for a Saturday squad…so you could have the same name above the same peg all season if that player avoids injury and/or loss of form and plays in every game. He will be able to get changed in the Home changing room on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays for the whole season.
There are no exceptions to this and even the coaches aren’t exempt. So if Brendon Snyman, for example, is the only coach selected for the Loughborough game, then the other, messrs Stankovich, Burke and Pritchard will have to change in the Away changing room during the training sessions. It’s consistent across the whole squad.
The fact that the Home changing room is having such a big makeover should mean that players on the fringes of the team will really want to earn their place in the starting XV…there’s an honour in wearing the shirt and an honour in being part of that Home changing room midweek.
Anyway…I thought it would make for an interesting post…and before anyone asks, just how this works for the double header on Saturday is anyone’s guess! I guess Gully will really be put to the test that day.
I did mention at the start of this post that I felt somewhat uncomfortable going into the empty changing rooms and taking pictures. Having now come almost to the end, I think I know why I felt that way.
It must be strange for the players having someone write a blog on a daily basis about the club and at times about the team and about them as individuals. I’m acutely aware of this and it’s impossible not to be critical of a player on occasions, even if it’s indirectly by saying I think X should get a run out instead of Y in the next game. X might be chuffed, Y rather less so.
And I couldn’t blame any player for having mixed feeling about that…I guess it happens all the time in soccer, or even in the Premiership such is the extent of media coverage and with so many pundits, professional or otherwise.
But far less so at this level.
I try really hard not to be personal about anyone, unless it’s in a good-natured way…but by going into the inner sanctum of the team, the changing room, it’s seems like a step too far…their one space which is theirs. It’s almost hallowed ground and to intrude is to be disrespectful. That probably says more about how introspective and diffident I am, than it does about how the players feel…but it is as it is.
At least now there’s no need to sneak a look through those doors and into the changing room areas on a Saturday afternoon anymore…