For many of us, it’s the daily routine that keeps us sane. We may moan about it, but we know what we have to do, we have some kind of schedule to do it, then eat, sleep, repeat. For footballers, that’s very much the case, with set training and life routines during the week and a matchday regimen at the weekends.
Take that away, as the current pandemic has done, and it’s an unusual feeling adding to the other uncertainties with it all. A big chunk has suddenly been removed from your life and you find yourself with a lot more time on your hands. You need to establish a new normal. A new routine to constructively fill your day.
And that’s exactly what Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos has done in the current crisis.
The life of a football manager is a busy one. One that can put a strain on family relationships. The sacrifices you make at home for success on the pitch can mean that you’re away a lot, with very little “me time” and family time during the regular season.
And while many of us are now finding ourselves spending a lot more time with our families, and freeing up a lot of time to catch up on all those box sets and books we kept meaning to get around to, Dos Santos still hasn’t been able to get that family time.
His wife and children are currently in Montreal, after heading east for the March break nearly two weeks ago. They were meant to come back to Vancouver on Thursday but the flight disruption due to the coronavirus outbreak now means that their reunion won’t be happening until at least April 4th.
That’s tough for a family man like Dos Santos, but he’s been determined to try and keep things as close to normal at home as he can.
“I’ve tried to have a similar pattern every day,” Dos Santos told AFTN by telephone this week. “I’ve been alone here, so it’s a little bit more difficult. We’re good – me, my kids, my family, they’re good. Me being alone, I have a pattern. Every day I try pretty much to do the same thing.”
So what exactly does a day in the life of a socially isolated Dos Santos look like? Well despite there being no games to prepare for and analyze, it’s still work, work, work for the ‘Caps coach. At least for the first half of the day.
“I wake up in the morning, I have a coffee, answer emails,” Dos Santos revealed. “I work a little bit. What I’m kind of doing is revisiting our model of play and thinking about how our team could look when everybody’s healthy.
“Our approach, tactically, when everybody’s healthy. Then I watch some games that are teams that inspire what we want to do and what we want to be about when we get back to back.”
But it’s certainly not all work and no play, with Dos Santos allowing himself time in the evening to enjoy some hobbies, both new and old, as he looks to put this rare amount of free time to good use and come out of the current situation as a better person than the one that went into it.
“At night, I try to learn how to cook,” Dos Santos told us. “Because I’m alone I make a few calls to people that help me become a better cook. The next day, it’s the same thing and we go on like that. I’m definitely going to come out of this as a better cook.”
Self betterment is certainly something we should all strive to achieve from this moment of madness. There’s no shortage of time. But Dos Santos isn’t just learning from cook books or You Tube tutorials, he’s getting some authentic tips from the real deal.
“I have a family that are friends of mine here in Vancouver,” Dos Santos explained. “My friend’s name is Aldo and it’s a big, traditional Italian family. His wife Eleanor is a typical, top Italian cook. When you go there you feel you’re going to Italy and driving through a little town.
“She’s teaching me all the little details about Italian cuisine. My focus right now is only Italian cuisine. We have to go one step at a time here. I can’t go from Italian to Chinese to Portuguese. It’s been fun.
“After my [afternoon] workout, around 6 I get back, I shower, I get on the phone and ask for some tips. I make different things and tomorrow I think I’m going to learn how to make gnocchi.”
The food is followed up by finally getting the chance to catch up on some football documentaries, the “All or Nothing” series on Amazon being high up on his list, but this new release of time is also allowing Dos Santos to revisit a passion from his past. A musical one.
“I’ve always played guitar,” Dos Santos revealed. “It’s one of my hobbies. But for some years, because I’ve always been busy with coaching and not having the ability to have a lot of time, I left my guitar aside. But now I took it out and I’ve started to play more. So there’s a lot of positives in this for me.”
** You can hear our full chat with Marc Dos Santos around the current situation and what this might mean for the Whitecaps this season in Episode 388 of the AFTN Soccer Show, which is out on Monday **