On the way to Paris 2024. The cloakroom, cradle of our solidarity

In the cloakroom of the French saber team at INSEP (National Sports Institute) (CECILIA BERDER / FRANCEINFO / RADIO FRANCE)

The cloakroom is a privileged place for a sports team. Great sports enthusiast, I enjoy when television cameras are discreetly introduced into the locker room to make us live the few moments before a meeting.

Being able to listen to the words of the captain, the coach, get inspired by the routine of each athlete, admire the attitudes, the contacts between the players … It fascinates me, just as it impresses me. How do these top athletes manage to disregard the camera, an element foreign to their group? How does the journalist manage to be forgotten in this moment of communion?

We made the habit during our travels with the collective France to take refuge in a locker room upon our arrival, on the place of the competition. It requires responsiveness because of the twenty teams present, and even if a majority is automatically heading to the stands, not everyone will have the chance to create this precious bubble.

We do not hesitate to use strategies to mark our territory. Often, a coach or a physiotherapist leaves in scout to install the “corner France”. This refuge gives off an energy, a smell, a particular concentration. When some go to the warm-up, others have already finished their first match. When some receive the coach's latest advice and encouragement from the locker room, another is consoling herself as she can from her recent defeat. Everything moves, everything moves.

This energy seems guided by an invisible conductor. A stranger to the group would have a hard time finding his place there. There is no precise code, no rule. But a real fluidity emerges from this cocoon. Sometimes our shelter can be very quiet, focused, studious. Often, he will be laughing, supportive, infinitely motivated. There is no doubt a precious resource before entering the lion cage.

In training, each of us has created our own space. Each has its place with his pictures, his grigris and his personal belongings. The birthright allows the oldest of the group (of which I am a part) to truster the best places. They are a little larger and have more hooks to expand their business. The best places are also less in the passage where each opening of door can reveal a part of intimacy.

We find ourselves in this place before and after each training session. These moments are precious to share our states of mind. It has become customary to meet once in a while for breaks “mood of the day.” Such an appointment is an opportunity to address any type of topic and let the floor to each of us, the most outgoing as the most shy.

If the performance is played with details, we have carefully chosen the photos and decoration of the walls around us. “A hall of fame” highlights the retired and former glories of the team of France (Anne-Lise Touya, Leonore Perrus, Carole Vergne, Stoltz Marion, Anne-Laure Berthier …). Another wall sheds light on the last medals in the league. Finally, a whole section of the wall traces the good times spent together (restaurants, outings, trips …): an essential bulwark to remember in good time the beautiful experiences lived with this team.


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