EXPERT SESSIONS AND ADVICE FROM QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED GRASSROOTS RUGBY COACHES

Concentration: Turn on the switch

When normally competent players make basic errors, it’s probably because they’ve been distracted from the task in hand. Here’s how to get winning concentration from your team.

Your mind can only hold one thought at a time. What? How can that be the case when we’re reading this, breathing and so on. We’re doing lots of things unconsciously and, if we’re in the right zone, those unconscious actions are the things that will allow us to perform to the best of our ability.

So, if one of your players isn’t performing, it may be because they have lost their focus. Simply shouting “concentrate!” isn’t going to help much because it doesn’t reset their mind on the right track. If they start to “concentrate” on the wrong things, it’s only going to get worse.

If I told you that your tongue was bigger than your mouth and you had to keep it inside your mouth, then what happens? You’re probably sensing your tongue on the roof of your mouth or on your teeth. That is your focus. It’s hard work, unless I can distract you from that and let your innate abilities deal with something you’ve been doing extremely well for years (not biting your tongue).

The key is to concentrate on what is important. That is, the actions that will improve the next action or reaction during the game.

  • Focus on the now – that is, what is happening next
  • Focus on the action – next scrum, lineout, passing move

Get the player to quickly picture these in their mind, perhaps even do a small rehearsal. You might have some trigger words to help them, such as “look at the name on the ball” or “feel like a gorilla at the scrum”. With one thought in the mind, the body will subconsciously do the rest. Practise working on these during intense practices.

Don’t leave the mental skills until it’s too late. So, when players look like they’re drifting off, work on the “here, now and what”.

For instance, in a handling exercise when the players are running at full pace, suggest a trigger for concentration: “fingers to the ball”.  Why not try it with this exercise…

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