January 6, 1970
When Liverpool meet Coventry in their postponed FA Cup tie tomorrow their players will have been expected to dispense with the luxury of a pre-match bath night.
Liverpool’s manager Bill Shankly, like many Soccer chiefs, holds that a pre-match bath is apt to weaken.
At the start of a decade expected to clang with the breaking of sporting records, Shankly is not alone in his fears. As the pressure on the limits of human endeavour grows, sportsmen concern themselves minutely with anything that may hinder their performances on field or track.
For instance, should they bathe before a match? Should they make love to their wives? Should they indulge in anything undedicated to the effort ahead?
Derek Ibbotson, former world mile record holder, agrees with Shankly about baths.
“I never had a hot bath before a race because my father told me it relaxed the muscles and softened the feet.
“But I must confess that when I married I made love a few hours before a race and ran a mile in four minutes. Sure, I narrowly lost the race – but that was just one of those things.”
His wife, Madeleine, herself an international runner, agrees that love and sport mix. “When a girl is married she is more relaxed because she is happy with the man she loves.”
There are well chronicled stories about self-indulgence being a positive sporting help. One runner scoffed some crea, cakes before breaking the British two-mile record, and thereafter cream cakes became his pre-race snack.
Tom McNab, national coach for the Amateur Athletic Association, holds that maintaining the normal pattern of life (including love-making) pays off in big time sport.
He also dismisses the hot-bath theory as an old wives’ tale but admits that the great runner Ron Clarke has a cold shower before a race because it “shunts” the blood inwards from the skin surface.
“I have known football trainers insist on their men taking laxatibes the night before a games,” says McNab. “I would say that is rubbish, and yet athletic coaches must always be aware of these fancies and fetishes of the men they train.”
Scientists are delving into the facts and fallacies of sporting life and a decade of research, as well as sporting achievement, lies ahead.
Strangely, one doctor, who has written a book on training, agrees that a hot bath twenty four hours before a major physical effort does weaken.
Equally, he believes that love-making is the most energising and relaxing activity.
He relates the cautionary tale of the athlete who abstained from love making for a week before a big race. The effect was psychologically shattering. He finished last.
(Daily Mirror: January 6, 1970)