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The Coaching Knife: What is meant by playing in the zone, with Brian Moylett

 

Dan Cottrell cuts to the root with Brian Moylett from Mindset & Performance at Off-Field Rugby.

They discuss playing in the zone from The Book On How You Become A Pro Rugby Player.

Brian is a mindset and performance coach at off-field rugby. He also coaches university women’s rugby and men’s rugby in Canada. His philosophy is that he helps young players become more confident on the field, develop their self-belief and play in the zone.

You can contact him at brianmoylett@gmail.com and visit his website www.offieldrugby.com

The book is on sale now, The Book On How You Become A Pro Rugby Player.


Transcript

The Coaching Knife with Brain Moylett

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

It’s when you’re in that place when it seems like time has slowed down, you’re out on the field and you just feel so confident, you just want the ball.

Speaker: Dan 

Rugby Coach Weekly present “The Coaching Knife” where we cut to the root, cut out the fluff, and challenge the masters of their domain to cut to the chase.

This episode, we speak to Brian Moylett, author of the book on how you become a pro rugby player. Focusing on one of the sections of the book, we’re going to cut to the root on how you play in the zone. Brian, are you ready for the knife?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

I am Dan.

Speaker: Dan 

Good. What do you mean by the zone?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yeah, so playing in the zone, other people call it the flow state but it’s when you’re in that place, when it seems like time has slowed down, you’re out on the field and you just feel so confident, you just want the ball, you feel like nothing can go wrong, and you’re not in your head thinking, you’re not worrying about what might go wrong, what might not happen, you’re not thinking about the future, you’re not worrying about the past. You’re just completely present and that’s what is being in the zone.

Speaker: Dan 

What do you mean by present?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Present as I said, not worrying about the future, what might happen, not worried about the past, you’re just in this moment right now. So what happens with a lot of players is they’ll worry throughout game day, throughout the week that “what if I make a mistake in the game? What will the coach think if it doesn’t go well? Will I play well today?”. And then they worry about the past, or they beat themselves up about the past in that they made a mistake five minutes ago and they dwell on it. “I dropped that high ball, everyone’s going to take them crap, I’m definitely going to get dropped, this game is not going well, this is awful. I don’t want to be here.” So players often live in their head in the future or in the past, and yeah being present is when you’re not thinking about any of that stuff.

Speaker: Dan 

You said earlier on that it’s sometimes called the flow and I know that people will maybe interchange the flow and the zone. So why is it called the flow? Because that’s probably the more technical way of approaching it.

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yeah, the flow state is what a lot of academic books and people will use in that world and the flow state is, yeah, I’m not sure exactly why it’s called the flow state but it’s funny; when I work with teams and when I work with players one on one, I started to use the flow state couple years ago and I asked a group of young players, I said, “has anyone here heard of the flow state before?” And out of 25, I got about four hands and I was like, “oh well, this might go well.” And then I just quickly taught on the spot. I said, “Have any of you heard of playing in the zone or do you know that?” Every hand went up? So I had to just tweak my language for the young players that I work with. Why exactly it’s called a flow state? I’m not sure if the origins of it to be honest.

Speaker: Dan 

Can everybody be in the zone all the time? I mean, it feels like it’s something that happens magically for you, I think you’re going to tell me how well we can just make that magic happen. But how often do should we expect to be in the zone?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Mental skills are like physical skills, and that the more you practice them, the better you get at them. It’s not like flicking a switch. You know, I’m going to go through a framework here that you can use, and you can practice and give you different tools. But it’s not like you hear this now and then tomorrow, you will forever be in the zone when you’re playing. It’s like if you get a gym programme and you do one weight session, you’re not going to be jacked forever and the strongest person on the field, you’ve got to practice them over and over again.

So everybody can be in the flow state, in the zone when they’re playing. How often or how long you spend in that space when you play is down to many different things. I think that you mentioned, the word in use was “Can everybody be in the zone all the time, in the flow state all the time?” And I think what that would be is a Buddhist monk in a monastery, you know, like that’s what that person…

So yes, I believe everybody could get there but the reality is that, you’re not going to be there all the time throughout your day. And you can be in the flow state throughout your day. You can be present when you’re washing your car, when you’re driving to work, you’re just in the moment thinking about the road and all these other things, when you’re reading a book, you can be in the zone. So this is something that you can do throughout your life. And I can talk about now but…

Speaker: Dan 

Well, go straight on. Tell me about the framework, I want to know.

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yeah, so the three-step framework that I have for getting in the zone is; the first thing is to practice being present throughout the week. The second thing is get your preparation right during the week. And the third thing is to stop caring, stop worrying, and stop putting pressure on yourself.

Speaker: Dan 

Okay well, number three sounds like a really difficult thing to do but let’s start with number one then. So give me an example of how my practice during the week.

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yeah, so this is all geared towards on a Saturday, you playing in the zone, that’s what the framework is for. But like everything, you don’t just rock up on a Saturday and be the best passer on the team, or the best kicker, or the strongest or the fittest, it’s all due to the work you do during the week. So being in the zone is, as I said, being present. So for you to be skillful in being present, you have to practice that during the week. So things that you can do are meditation, that’s a great one. And you can also go for walks outside in nature, and put your phone away, not be listening to podcasts, not listen to music, not be trying to distract yourself with everything. And it’s challenging, wait till you see. Try it out. Put your phone away for an hour, go for a walk outside and just look around you and breathe in the air. Go play with a dog, don’t be on your phone, don’t be listening to music, don’t whatever. Just be. And these things are you’re fully present, when you’re talking with somebody else like me and you now, I’m actively listening to what you’re saying, I’m very present. I’m not on my phone. I’m not thinking about what I’m going to do later. I’m not thinking about all these other things. I’m not thinking about what happened earlier in the day. I’m practising being present.

So yeah, mindfulness, we’ve all heard this. So the things I mentioned are just a couple of mindfulness things you can do. Another one, go for a swim in the sea is another kind of common one that people use and it’s great because you can’t be worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow when you’re in the freezing cold water. I love to have a shower every morning. It’s a habit I built up a couple years ago and that’s incredible for many, many reasons but one of them is that it brings you to the present moment; you have to concentrate on your breathing. When that cold water hits you, you have to breathe in deeply through your nose and it just brings you to the present moment. And so there’s many different things, you can google mindfulness, I’ve given five, six things but mindfulness practices are practices by which to help you be present and they have many benefits throughout your whole life but they have huge benefits also to your sport. So number one practice being present. That’s what it is.

Speaker: Dan 

So we’re practising being present. So in a normal week of preparing for a game, we know that we set aside times for training, physical training, you’re saying set aside times to practice being present. If you did it for five minutes a day, that’s probably not going to be enough. Is there is there a minimum maximum here?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Five minutes a day is a great place to start. If you’ve never done this before and you could start today by building in a meditation practice for five minutes every morning, that will be an incredible place to start. So maybe, if this is all new to you, that’s exactly what I would say to do. Start with five minutes a day. And something that’s really good is get a piece of paper and put 30 boxes on the page. And every day, every morning after you do your five minutes meditation, cross out a box. And then you’ll start to build momentum, you’ll start to see that you’ve backed up days and days. I learned this from Jerry Seinfeld, the comedian and he used with his writing. He’s like “I need to write every day.” So after he writes, he puts a box down. That’s something that I use. It’s really simple. But yeah, meditation incredible. Start with five minutes and build it up and then, you know, maybe for 20 minutes in the evening, then you put your phone away and you go for a walk outside with no podcast, no music, no nothing and you’ll be so bored, you’ll be like irritable even. You’ll feel this energy in your body. You’ll be like, oh, I want to get away from it but that’s the challenge and that’s the practice.

Speaker: Dan 

Okay, so we’re saying to people, don’t start meditating now, keep listening to this podcast. As soon as this podcast is finished, turn off your phone, go for a cold shower, have a swim in a sea, be present, don’t have things going around you. So we’re on to number two, get your preparation right.

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yeah, so a big thing. If you get to Saturday morning of a game and you’ve been eating crap food during the week, or you haven’t done your gym sessions, or you’ve been slacking off training or even missing training or you haven’t got your prep right during the week, then you can be in your head thinking, Oh, I don’t know if I’m ready, or I don’t think this will go well and you can start to worry. Whereas, if you’re as fit as you can be, if you have studied your tape, if you have been very diligent during the week in getting your preparation right, then you will know come Saturday morning, that there’s nothing more you could have done, there’s nothing more you could have done, so why worry?

Speaker: Dan 

Okay, so I’m just going to jump in here. I’m worried here that, that sounds wonderful for somebody who’s a pro player, who is able to have their week planned out for them. But most people listening in here will have everyday jobs, going to college and that sort of thing so they’re not going to be able to do that. So there must be some way that they can cut this off in order that they don’t suddenly say, “Well, it’d be fun if I was a pro player, but I’ve had to do three essays this week or I’ve had to do overtime, so there’s no way that I’m going to be right for Saturday.”

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

No, in that, all you can do is all you can do, right. So I fully understand what you’re saying Dan that some people have very busy lives. Then the pro player might turn around and say “you’re in school. I have four kids, or speaking engagement I have to go to and this and that and whatever and could be pulled every way.” So all you can do is all you can do so you give your best effort.

So on a Sunday, plan out your week. And yes, you’ve got papers top write, yes, you’ve got a part time job. That’s all good. So maybe you can’t do five gym sessions a week, maybe you can only do three. Maybe you can’t do as much as a pro player but to be honest, if it’s so important to you, you will find time.

So the example that you gave of a university student saying, “Oh, well, I can’t or I don’t have time, because I’ve got all these essays.” What I would say to that university student is look at your screen time on your phone, and then tell me that you don’t have time to stretch for 20 minutes in the evening or then tell me that you don’t have time to do an extra conditioning session. Because if you have more than an hour of screen time on your phone, you’re wasting your time. And I’m no different, it’s something that I’m always working on, is to be on my phone less, but like I scroll on apps, and so I can’t give the excuse to say oh damn, I don’t have the time to do this because the fact is that I think my screen times about two hours turn now or below, I get it below two hours a lot of the time a day. But you know, we do have time. So that’s a great excuse that people tell themselves, “Oh, I don’t have time.” You know, if you really want this bad enough, you will allocate your time in a way that will give you the best chance of achieving it.

Speaker: Dan 

So it’s important then in this preparation time that you have somebody obviously looking in to check that you’re doing the right sorts of things so you’ve got to align with your coach. So really getting in the zone is very much for you to do in terms of finding the time, but you’ve also got to find people to help you out.

So I think the hardest one is to stop caring or worrying about outcomes. So a lot of people are going to say, Brian, what is the magic button here to stop me worrying?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yeah, so 100%, this will be the most difficult pill, because the other two are kind of things that we’ll say is kind of more physical things that you just do, you know, you do it. This is more challenging because it’s far more mental than the other two. And the reason it’s very difficult, and it’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people is because you’ve conditioned yourself to worry. So if you’re 20 years of age, and you’ve been playing rugby since you were 7… well, as a kid, you probably didn’t worry. Maybe around I would bet, around age kind of 12, 13, 14 when like selections and coaches started getting involved more and telling you what you need to do better, then you probably started to worry. So for a number of years, you have conditioned your body, yourself to worry. When I play rugby, I worry, that is just what you do. So yes, it’s challenging in that sense to work out of it. But what I would say to that person is, of course you got to practice it, but practice as weird as it feels and as weird as it sounds right now, practice not caring. Practice going, “I don’t care what happens today. I don’t care if I make mistakes. I don’t care what the coach thinks. I don’t care what people in the sideline might think. I don’t care what my teammates are going to think if I make a mistake”, because that’s another one people are afraid of is you know, the teammates might think I’m crap.

Practice that. Just really do. And the mindfulness itself really helps but just let go of it, practice it, and go out and do that. And of course, once again, it’s not you do it once or you think about it once and flick a switch and it’s done but practice it more and more and more and letting go of that.

Another big one is expectation. I got to score two tries today, I got to play really well today, there’s probably going to be scouts here, there’s probably going to be people looking, this is it, or this is a final, this is such a big day, I really have to be great today. So you just pile all this pressure on yourself. And when I was a young player, a kid, I used to think I needed it. I used to think I couldn’t play unless I was like wound up, unless I was like, nearly… I’m not going to say sick, I never got sick but I saw others getting sick. I used to think that I needed to be so on edge and like pacing around the dressing room, and that I used to have to be wound up completely. Whereas I then found it in my early 20s say 22, 23 I remember realizing this isn’t me, I’m chilled out all the time. Like, I’m not this type of person that’s always riddled and just like can’t sit still. Like I’m just chill. And so I started to try that out. And I was a bit afraid even because I remember thinking, Oh, you have to be like this before a game, you have to be all, you can’t be chilled and relaxed and casual and having a joke. I used to think you can’t. But then I was like, I’m going to try it out. And I think I was about 21 or so and I really leaned into it and tried it out. And oh, man, it helped so much and it’s a practice. It really is a practice. That’s not to say that from then on, I didn’t put pressure on yourself or worry about games.

Speaker: Dan 

Now, some people will be listening in and thinking this would work very well for this player but there are other players who are at different parts of that spectrum where probably they seem to be too relaxed and then when the game starts, they don’t seem to be in the game at all, they just wandering around. They’re not attentive or intentional in what they do. So what are we saying to them? Just stay relaxed, this is fine, this is going to keep you in the zone or do they need to up their ante? In other words, is it different for different people?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yes, good question. So there’s studies been done on the arousal needed. So different players will need to be more… let’s say arousal is the word but if you want to think between different sports, a golfer and a rugby player will be at different stages, but then within rugby, an openside flanker might be different to an out half. And that’s just kind of giving examples. For sure, if you are so relaxed, but what I would say there is you’re most likely not switched on, you’re not focusing. So if that’s the case, and the game is passing you by, and maybe like you say, you’re so relaxed that you’re just not getting going, you need to realize that you need to be more aroused.

So the example I gave us that I was making myself and what I believe most people do is they make themselves too aroused and they start creating it. And they create it by worrying, by putting pressure on themselves so that you feel, you can imagine the energy in their body and anyone who’s played will know that what that energy is, and it’s too much, it’s overwhelming and it makes you just… it’s too much.

So for the vast majority of people, I would reckon 95% of people ish, I’m just pulling it out, would potentially be too aroused whereas it’s a great point you make, there may be people for sure that the game is passing them by and that they need to get more into it. And maybe their warmup might need to be better, they might need to do a few hits, they might need to… everyone’s different, but they might need to do something within their warmup that will get them to the stage or the level that they need to be when the whistle goes for the kickoff.

Speaker: Dan 

And that’s how you get into the zone. So there’s in the book where you talk about match preparation, game preparation and all the things around there.

So great, we’ve taken a knife to being in a zone that’s fantastic. Just to say that Brian is a mindset and performance coach at Off Field rugby. He also coaches University women’s rugby and men’s rugby in Canada and his philosophy is that he helps young players to become more confident on the field, develop their self-belief and plan in the zone. You can contact him at Brianmoylett@gmail.com and visit his website, which is Offfieldrugby.com. The book is on sale. That’s the book on how you become a pro rugby player. Links in the show notes.

So Brian, we’re going to finish with five quickfire questions. What coaching book is by your bedside?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Right now, I’m reading a book called “The Power of your subconscious mind.” It’s not quite a coaching book, but it’s helping me in my coaching. I’m learning quite a lot in that.

Speaker: Dan 

And who’s that by?

 

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Joseph Murphy. It’s like an old book. I think it’s from the 80s. Yeah, pretty, really interesting.

Speaker: Dan 

From those of us who were around in the 80s, they were books then too. Which coach teacher are you loving at the moment?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

I always say, at the moment, I’m not quite certain. I really like Eddie Jones to be honest. And even though there’s challenges with England and I know you’re English and different people have different thoughts of him, I enjoy Eddie Jones.

Speaker: Dan 

Yep. Good. Controversial, but still he’s has plenty successes as well.

Which team sports subject would you love to coach at the moment?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Man United. That looks like a pretty good challenge. Getting there, Eric Ten Haag.

Speaker: Dan 

Yeah, sitting under Alex Ferguson would be interesting. Who’s inspired you most?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Who’s inspired me most? I like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was actually listening to one of his talks on a podcast this morning. I feel he’s very inspirational and motivational and yeah, I like him.

Speaker: Dan 

What’s his quote about Plan B?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Yeah, he says, get rid of I’ve never had a plan B. Get rid of it. And I love that. And very quickly, but he grew up in a small town in Austria and he got a magazine and he saw a bodybuilder in it who was in movies and he said, “that’s what I want to do. I want to go to America and be a world champion bodybuilder, star in movies.” And he went from small town, Austria to go and do that. He went and became governor of California. He’s very inspirational in following your dreams. Get rid of the plan B and backing yourself. And yeah, I like him. There’s many others but yeah, he comes to mind.

Speaker: Dan 

Good. And what would you tell your 20-year-old self to do more of?

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Back myself and not listen to the naysayers. And there are so many people in society that will tell you that you can’t do this and you can’t do that and don’t listen to any of them and just go all in on your dreams and don’t worry about failing. See where it goes.

Speaker: Dan 

Good. Good. We like that. And plenty of inspiration for all of us from that. Brian, thanks very much for your time, and thanks for getting under the coach’s knife.

Speaker: Brian Moylett 

Cheers, Dan. Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

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