by Tom Billups
Were I to write a book about my rugby experiences, I would certainly dedicate a chapter to the competitive attitudes of world-class players I have known. Keith Wood’s fiery determination, Jason Leonard’s workman like approach to big matches, and the mercurial French flanker Laurent Cabannes’ subtle nervousness during warm ups are but a few of those I will always remember.
A positive, determined mindset is critical to whether a rugby player will play to his or her potential on the field. Attitude is simply that important. There is a lot that goes into a player developing his or her own way of mental preparing to put in a personal best performance, more than I think many realize.
Often I hear of coaches and supporters saying that a team or player has to simply “gotta want it”, and I think this is selling the whole of situation short. To say that a player only has to want a victory more is to infer that physical and mental preparation aren’t involved in victory, that the team’s technical systems don’t weigh heavily into the outcome of a contest, and that you only have to try harder to win. Playing hard is the easy part. Investing the time to become physically ready, aroused mentally to the right level, and technically prepared takes a lot of planning and diligence to stick to the plan when the going gets tough.
If you spend months, not days, getting prepared in all aspects of performance previously mentioned, the outcomes will take care of themselves more times than not.
It’s important for players to harness their mental energies. Keith, Jason, and Laurent all demonstrated this being able to do this in their won way. It is no surprise because the truly exceptional player is the one who is able to balance being aroused (up for it) but still able to decision make and perform in the biggest arenas.
It is the right time of year to assess how you get ready to compete. If you don’t have an existing systematic way to get to the “right place” mentally, I would encourage to you to look into it. If you have an existing system that you have used (positive self talk, visualization for example) how is it working ?
In my experience, the best players in the world don’t just want a victory more than the other guy. They prepare to earn the right to win.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand, the U.S. and England for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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