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Dan Ryan: My lessons learned on the Camino de Santiago are helping me through lockdown


Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan

Freddie Parkinson

Dan Ryan

Dan Ryan

Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Dan Ryan

We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives.

Today, we talk to Dan Ryan, head coach of the Northern Ireland netball team and Director of Netball for new British SuperLeague franchise Leeds Rhinos. The former Australia men's captain is also a Sky Sports pundit.

Q: How are you keeping?

A: I'm keeping pretty well overall. Some days are better than others but the biggest challenge for me has been the daily repetition and routine. Normally, my days and weeks are pretty structured but there's always so much variety in what I'm doing or where I'm going, so adjusting to that change has taken some time.

Q: How have you been affected?

A: Everything has slowed down with the cancellations of training, camps and competitions but there's still a lot going on. I've just shifted my focus to more detailed strategic planning and management projects that are just as important. There's still a lot to be done to make sure we are well prepared to resume when we get the green light.

Q: How are you keeping fit?

A: When lockdown was enforced, I made a commitment to run every day and I've done a decent job sticking to that. I live just outside of Leeds and have so many beautiful parks and running trails right on my doorstep, so I've actually loved exploring the area and finding new paths. Running has always been great mindfulness practice for me so I appreciate how important it is for my overall health and wellbeing.

Q: How are you maintaining morale, yours and the team?

A: I think it's important to have goals and stay focused on the processes of those goals. Everyone will be handling this crisis differently and it's important to allow people to navigate their way through it. Motivation comes and goes but staying connected with your support network, remaining positive and optimistic really does make a difference.

Q: Where are you drawing your personal strength from now?

A: I walked the Camino de Santiago (a spiritual passage and pilgrimage route in north west Spain) after the World Cup last summer and that experience has actually been the gift that keeps on giving. It's something I've drawn upon a number of times in lockdown. On the Camino, it's just you, your backpack, your thoughts and your only commitment is to walk every day, which is a really simple and refreshing way to live for six weeks. It actually makes you appreciate all the little things in life that get overlooked, so for me I'm trying to be really grateful for the change of pace and simplicity of life right now, because there will come a time when we all look back on this time and appreciate all the positive things that have emerged.

Q: Can you recommend a book, film or box set you think stay at home sports fans might enjoy?

A: I'm currently reading Eleven Rings by former Chicago Bulls Coach, Phil Jackson. My favourite book that I highly recommend is Getting a Grip, the autobiography of tennis champion Monica Seles, who at 19 and ranked world no.1, was stabbed in the back during a match in 1993. She is my most admired sports person and her story is as inspiring as it is harrowing and unimaginable. On Netflix, if you're up for a laugh, binge watch Schitt's Creek. Ridiculous humour and very entertaining characters. I'm currently working my way through Prison Break season 1-5. It's very stressful viewing!

Q: What life lessons are you learning from this?

A: I was often a person that was always in a hurry to go somewhere, do something, achieve the next goal but walking the Camino taught me to slow down and be more mindful of just being in the present moment more. There is something quite powerful about that and this crisis has made me do that every day. Rather than thinking too far ahead or being consumed by all the things out of our control, focus on what's right in front of you and be patient enough to let life unfold in due process.

Q: What is the first thing you will do when this is all over?

A: If I was home in Australia it would be to see my family, especially my young nieces and nephew, but that will have to wait until Christmas. So, I guess I'm just looking forward to being able to see people face to face again, to catch up for a coffee or a beer and simply socialise. Also, this year, I planned to travel in my downtime, so seeing when and where I can go will be high on the to do list.

Q: And your message to fans?

A: The most important thing we can all do is fully support our great game once it gets back up and running. Netball has made such profound inroads on the sporting landscape over the past 12 months, so we need to keep pushing the sport in Northern Ireland forward to maintain the momentum and ensure a brighter, more sustainable future.

Belfast Telegraph