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The psychological aspect

Written by Ben Venter (Ben)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks, Super Rugby on 5 Mar 2015 at 09:44
Tagged with : ,

I want to touch on something that I feel is a big problem at our beloved Sharks. It has been a problem for us for many years now, especially in regards to SupeR Rugby. I personally feel that there is a big mental problem at the Sharks, which I blame for the trend we’ve been seeing the past few years.

That trend is our ability to put away weaker teams, or our lack there of, I should say. How many times have we seen it? How many times have the Sharks been favourites, but when it comes to match time, they not only fall way short of the hurdle, they fall face first on the hurdle and lose a few teeth in the process? But come the time when everybody writes the Sharks off, the time that our backs are firmly against the wall, the media and even our beloved supporters give them no chance in hell, what do we see then? What we see then folks is a team with fire in their bellies, a team that plays for each other, a team that bleeds for each other, a team that fights until the very end, leaving nothing to chance, just to prove their doubters wrong. Or so it would seem. Ultimately the main concern for me is the fact that we don’t get to see this every week come match time.

With this in mind I thought it best to write an article about Sports Psychology. I want to look at the psychological aspect of a sportsman, what it’s all about and how it can be improved and maintained to assure the best chance of success. This not only applies to Rugby, but any other team sport too. Whether you’re a Coach, Assistant coach or player. This applies to you.

Believe it or not, being a successful sportsman is about far more than just how physically gifted you are, it’s about more than the amount of agility you possess. Success starts in your head, not only does it start there, it’s also one of the key elements in performance. Let’s look at focus first. This is a key element to success, it is absolutely essential. Focus on the things that you can control, you only have control over your own actions and attitude after all. Keep focusing on this, if you do focus on things that you have no control over, you are creating unnecessary anxiety. Always try to stay relaxed under when you are under pressure; stress and anxiety make your focus drop. Try staying calm by taking deep breaths, stretching your muscles or even simply by just listening to music that you like. Talking to yourself also helps on occasions, try to motivate yourself, tell yourself to push harder and if you do you can give yourself a pat on the back as well. Develop routines that are effective, it channels your focus and gets you ready for game time. Your routine also helps you to stay focused on your main goals and prevents many possible distractions. Practice visualizing yourself perform in exactly the way that you want to perform by using mental imagery. The more you train your mind to focus on the right things, the better your mind will respond.

As we all know, confidence is probably the most important factor in a sportsman. You can be the most physically gifted player in the world but if you aren’t confident in your own abilities, you will struggle to reach your goals. Working on improving your confidence is just as important as working on any other skill set you may possess. You need to accept the fact that there will be ups and downs, highs and lows,confidence is a state of mind that fluctuates. So don’t be too hard on yourself when your confidence is low, just focus on improving and your confidence will follow suit. Try not to focus on how well others are doing, be it your teammates or players from the other team. Focus on yourself, this is your career after all. Take it day by day, every little success you achieve every day improves your confidence. Try not to look too far ahead. Again, focus on what you have control over, focus on the things you are doing right. Learning from your mistakes is very important, but don’t linger on them, if you fall down, pick yourself up, dust yourself off at get back at it. If you spend too much time focusing on your mistakes, your confidence will drop. When you focus on all the things you are doing right, your confidence will sear.

How can this be applied by a coach? As a coach you can drill your players’ physical skills twelve hours a day, but you are only unlocking a fraction of what they are capable of. Sports psychology can be implemented during practice, simple techniques can be used to help you players focus better, handle pressure, play as a team, communicate more and maximize mental toughness. Players can write in a performance journal 5 minutes before practice to get focused. You can remind your players to use mental imagery to see themselves accomplishing their daily goals. Pressure your players to ‘win’ certain drills in practice so that can get used to performing under pressure. After practice, get the players to write down where they feel the did well and where they feel they need to improve on the next day. Make sure the whole team knows that the team is more important the individuals in the team. Remind them that they play for the name on the front of their jerseys, not the one on the back. Engage in social activities as a team so that teammates can get to know each other off the field. Create drills where teamwork is critical to achieve success, let them watch famous sports movies that highlight the importance of teamwork so that teamwork stays in the forefront of their minds. One of the best ways to motivate your players as a coach is by getting to know them personally and by showing them you actually care about their lives, not just about their sport skills. If you notice a drop in confidence, ask the player about it and share stories about famous sportsmen that fought through tough times. Bring in former greats of the game to be guest speakers to motivate your team. Set short term goals for your players and do anything you possibly can to help them achieve those goals. Help them to connect to the reason they’re playing the sport in the first place.

Let’s do it Sharkies, get your heads right and the rest will follow suit.


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