Leeds United in lockdown - routine is king as Stuart Dallas strives for normality
Routine is king in the Dallas household, both for a Leeds United player keeping in shape and for parents trying to keep three kids entertained.
Stuart Dallas and his wife Juneve, outnumbered by their children Pixie, 8, Xavie, 2 and one-year-old Rexie, have a home life that team-mate and parent of one Mateusz Klich says he simply cannot imagine.
But as Northern Irish international and Leeds’ winger-turned-full-back Dallas points out, it is a life he chose and the people he is compelled to spend the entirety of each day with, under government lockdown guidelines, are the people he would chose to be with.
And while he admits, as any parent would, it can be a challenge, it’s one he embraces.
“It has been all right [in isolation],” he said.
“This is what we signed up to, we wanted kids. You have just got to embrace it. I don’t think there will ever be another period in your life-time like this – I certainly hope there is not another one like this.
“I don’t think there will ever been another period where you spend as much time with your family day in, day out.
“We are stuck in our house, go for our walk and come back in.
“I don’t think there will ever be another period where we have so much time together.
“I think you have got to embrace the challenge; it’s your family, it is not strangers you are with, so enjoy it.
“Kids are kids, they get on your nerves at times, but you wouldn’t have them any other way.”
For a footballer, whose life is largely regimented with training times, meal times and travel dictated by his employer – much in the way that children’s lives are dictated by their schooling and parenting – the sudden event of limitless free time could be overwhelming.
So Dallas has been keen to keep things as normal as possible for his youngsters, with the emphasis on their enjoyment of life.
“Routine for us is massive in terms of the kids,” he said.
“It is not so much a strict routine, more so at morning time and late in the evening at dinner time and bed time. It’s more our routine, so kids know.
“In terms of doing school work, I think it is important.
“Pixie, my eldest girl she had some fractions to do and luckily my wife is quite smart because some of it, for an eight-year-old was honestly so hard.
“Their world has been turned upside down as well, so I think it is important you keep them happy and just don’t keep them in the house saying: ‘you have got to do this and that.’ “They are at an age where they are learning every day and being outside in the garden is probably where they are going to learn the most. Just let them enjoy themselves.
“Of course, you do get cross at times where there is stuff they shouldn’t do. But it is all part of learning and part of them growing up.
“It is part of us learning as parents as well, so for me that’s fine. The weather has been good and fingers crossed it stays that way. That has been a big help, being able to get outside.”
And sticking to routine to bring some sort of normality to his own life, at a time when normal day-to-day activity has been so drastically curtailed, helps with one of the football-related tasks he can still do – keeping on weight.
Marcelo Bielsa was never likely to allow his players go to seed during the lockdown and even though Dallas and his team-mates might pride themselves on the professionalism that has made them a team most others struggle to match for physical intensity, accountability helps.
Leeds players still have to send proof of their weight into the club on a daily basis, so they can prepare as best they can for the return of their normal routine, whenever that might be.
“I’ve found it, not easier, but it comes back to how much you want it,” he said.
“You have to take it upon yourself to be professional. If you’re going to the fridge and snacking all the time of course you’re going to put weight on.
“You have to stick to what you would do.
“I go back to routine. I get up, have my breakfast and then like to get my exercise done early so it’s similar to what it would be at training, then come home and have my lunch, dinner and try not to snack.
“That would put the weight on. I think with us having to send the weights in every day, keeping in contact with the nutritionist, the sports science guys has really helped, it keeps you on track.”