WINNIPEG – The finishing touches are being put on another day of training at IG Field when a simple question is put to Valour FC boss Rob Gale: How do you prepare a team with no matches on the horizon, let alone no destination for a Canadian Premier League hub city or even a specific timetable?
“That’s the hardest part of this: dealing with the psychology of the player,” Gale told CanPL.ca this week. “You don’t want to train to just train. You don’t always want to be in small groups because they want contact. They want to be in full training already.
“And so you have to manage that and keep reminding them that this is their job, and the professionalism and standards we expect from them can’t dip, even though we don’t have a clear road map in front of us yet.
“It can be difficult for players in these situations at times to keep their eyes on the prize.”
Most of Valour’s squad has been together now for a handful of training sessions, with goalkeeper James Pantemis and midfielders Stefan Cebara and Masta Kacher all arriving last week.
Gale opted to give his team a break on the weekend, but the squad did gather for a hike on Hunt Trail near Falcon Lake on Sunday as part of the team-building exercises so important in developing chemistry.
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The coaching staff has also worked through various stages of training and tactics so as to not overwork or mentally fatigue the team. Ultimately, though, everyone – coaches and players alike – crave real situations in real matches where the score is being kept and the outcome affects the standings.
Here’s another factor: Gale and his staff would also like to see some concrete evidence as to their handiwork in the massive rebuild Valour underwent during this off-season.
“You never know about a group of players,” he said. “What it looks like on paper is one thing, but seeing them on the grass is another. But we’re excited. We’re excited to get them together. For sure we wish our fans could see what we see and the potential of this group. Anyone who knows our staff, we’re competitors and we want to be testing ourselves as coaches and as players.
“Going into battle every day hardens you. Our very name and the history we have as an entity is about courage in the face of battle. Not being able to put that to the test feels a little false right now.
“But, it will come and when it does come we’re all going to be excited and ready for the challenge.”
Valour midfielder José Galán is eager for some answers and some direction, too. Still, the approach the veteran Spaniard is taking now until some big-picture questions get answered is simple – consider where we all were just a few weeks/months ago. Compare that to what is happening now, even with just a simple training session, and it has to be seen as progress.
“It’s been a very hard year, but at least we’re on the field now,” he said. “Positive thinking… we are a team, we are training. I remember when all we had were Zoom calls and running on your own, even when it was (cold outside). I’m grateful we are back training and one step closer to the goal.
“Everybody is getting ready. Yes, there isn’t a game to get ready for on the weekend or something, but you can see that the boys are starting to connect.
“That’s how I want to look at things now: we’re around our new teammates and so it’s just good to be together. It’s true no one knows yet what is going to happen this season, but hopefully we’ll get some answers soon.
“We’re just happy to be out here.”