The other week I was watching another coach set up what I can safely say was a drill: 10 cones evenly spaced in front of two lines of players, no decision-making and off they went. The players ran out with the ball, put it down, ran to another cone, ran back and picked it up. They passed it to a team mate who repeated the exercise. MORE
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From Motivating Your Team, Fraser Stott, former scrum half of Heineken cup team Glasgow Warriors, explains how to give your players that all-important mental edge.
It is all very well your players’ bodies being ready for the game, but what about their minds?
Simple mental preparation can establish focus and concentration, which can improve their performance significantly.
Being correctly prepared mentally means players:
• Are not thinking about previous poor performances, and instead remember just the positive aspects of their game.
• Are less likely to be distracted, because they are busy with a pre-match routine.
• Know what to think, feel and do, keeping their attention to the task in hand.
• Only think about performing (kicking, passing or running well), without worrying about the outcome. This means they “stay in the now” rather than think about the future or the consequences.
“I enjoy being part of the team and playing competitive rugby. So when I think about the game, I let these feelings come through as a “knowing” smile on my face.
It is natural to feel nervous before a game but I don’t let this emotion worry me as it could lead to negative thoughts. Being nervous is actually a good thing as it shows I am thinking about what lies ahead – I have learned to enjoy this feeling as it will be there in the lead up to all the matches I will
– Fraser Stott
How is this achieved?
1. Ensure players are only trying to “control the controllables”. In a game and in training, there are only certain aspects the player can influence. This can be a kick at goal, a throw into the lineout or a simple pass. Poor mental
focus means that even the controllable actions can go wrong.
2. Get players to use positive “self talk” or “trigger words” either out loud or in their heads that encourage, for instance, “big hits”, “pace”, “smash”.
3. Get them to visualise themselves performing well in all aspects of the game and training.
4. Promote personal objectives or goals. Encourage players to have a clear
understanding of what they are trying to achieve and what needs to be done to reach that goal.
5. Employ tried and tested physical routines, such as warming up, in a manner that allows them to take the field knowing they are as ready as they can be.
6. Think about what “gets them going”. It may be quiet time in the changing room or banging their head off the wall for others!
7. You should monitor and learn from what they do well and what they do poorly. The key to this is to be honest, but be extremely positive as well. All players need to talk to people they have respect for and ask for feedback on their performance. This person could be you, but also the captain or club president or a senior player.
Here’s how I prepare for a match
I think about the game throughout the week before. I go over the moves, team plays, the collective and individual objectives – in other words, how I’m going to play the game.
Visualisation is key. I try to see the pitch that I am trying to play on. I focus on all the things that I am going to do well, like giving good passes, making big hits, taking cleanly at lineouts, and scoring.
Want more tips on how to mentally engage your team? This article comes from my Motivating Your Team manual. Purchase your copy now for more insights on how to motivate players to perform as a group and build confidence.