As a long time Rugby player and Coach, I know all too well the impact mindset has on performance. Rugby is a physical game that requires not only physical strength but also a strong mind too.
Our much loved game is fast-paced, and players of all ages need to be both mentally focused and confident to be successful. In this blog, we'll explore some strategies that can help all rugby players stay focused and confident on the field.
1. Prepare Mentally Before the Game
Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation before a game. Here at 360 Rugby, we really advise that you take some time before the game to clear your mind and focus on what you need to do. What is your biggest strength? How can you best help your team? Visualize yourself making successful tackles, scoring a try, and executing your game plan. This can help you build your confidence and get in the right mindset to play your best.
As our friends over at RuckScience said:
Develop A Pre-Game Routine
Routines can help get you into the right mindset for rugby. Following a routine takes the guesswork out of pre-game preparation and gives you confidence. If your pre-game routine resulted in success last time, it is only reasonable to expect the same outcome this time.
Arrive at the venue with plenty of time to spare
Put on your playing gear
Practice your kicks, passing, lineouts, etc.
Listen to the pre-game team talk
Warm up again
We think this is great advice to implement before any stressful moment in our lives
2. Manage Your Emotions
Emotions can play a significant role in the game of rugby (and elsewhere), so managing them effectively is essential. There has been a lot of (very welcome) conversations around the game and the mental health of its players, so here at 360 Rugby, we think it is really important to address this from our youngest players upwards. We all know that it's easy to get caught up in the intensity of the game, but players need to keep their emotions in check to make rational decisions. When emotions (both good and bad) are running high, take a moment to breathe deeply and refocus. Learn to recognise when emotions are taking over and take steps to keep them in check.
This is something you would have seen recently in the 6 Nations. Ireland and France have adopted a technique where instead of an instruction focused huddle post a break in play, they get together and take breaths together to ground and regulate everyone's emotions. Needless to say, their placement of 1st and 2nd place respectively is indicative of their collective effort to manage their emotions.
A popular tool which I have learnt that can help with emotional overwhelm is;
The five senses check.
What can you see?
What can you smell?
What can you taste?
What can you hear?
What can you feel?
Naming just one thing under those categories can help ground you and refocus you to the present moment and stop your mind spinning, especially when you have taken a big emotional "hit". Just missed a conversion? Or missed a tackle which then resulted in a try? These moments can trip you up but managing your emotions in that one moment can make all the difference to your entire game.
3. Communicate with your Teammates
Communication is key in rugby, both on and off the field. Here at 360 Rugby, we believe that a team that communicates well can execute a game plan more effectively, as players can support each other throughout the game far easier. Clear communication can build trust among teammates and boost their confidence which is why we recommend these top 3 tips for communicating with your teammates on a rugby pitch.
Speak with clarity: what is happening and what do we want your team to do? Now is not the time to elaborate: keep your communication clear, concise and full of information NOT emotion.
Say something rather than nothing: When you have the opportunity to scan the field, say what you see so that everyone else has an understanding of what options are available.
Build your bank: This is where a small repertoire of pre agreed hand signals/nonverbal communication techniques comes in handy! (pun intended) These can make such a huge difference when you are tired and run out of breath - so agree a handful (yup, and again!) with your team during training!
4. Stay Focused on the Present
It is easy to get caught up in the game's past or future, but rugby players need to stay focused on the present. The game is constantly evolving, and players need to adapt to the changing circumstances. Focusing on the present can help players make smarter decisions,
Prepare. Having gone through the right preparations before the game (warmed up, eaten well, hydrated, discussed game plan with the team etc) then you should be fully able to focus on the task at hand, rather than being consumed with any distracting thoughts or feelings.
Breathe. Find a way to not allow the opposition to distract you from your focus. We all know that the other team may have a few tricks up their sleeves to try to knock you off your game, and it is often in these moments that our focus can waiver. In my coaching experience, taking a hard, deep breath can often be the moment you need to readdress your attention to the game at hand.
Be Vocal! This is a team sport, and it can really help to remind your team vocally to stay focused if there is a big moment coming up. Stay switched on, watch that player- they have done this a few times in the game already. As we mentioned in no. 3 - communicate communicate and communicate some more.
5. Build a Positive Mindset
A positive mindset can be a powerful tool in rugby. Even in challenging situations, a cheerful outlook can help players stay resilient and maintain their confidence. Try to focus on the things you're doing well and remind yourself of your successes throughout the game. A positive mindset can also help reduce stress and anxiety too.
As a Coach, I often remind my players of their individual strengths in their positions, and also as a team. Discussing everyone’s strengths reminds them of which player is best in specific scenarios. This message, when conveyed by a teammate, is stronger than when delivered by a coach, so be your team's biggest cheer leader!
Also, remember how hard you have worked in training and all of the problem solving you have done through your previous matches and sessions. You have a library of skills and knowledge of the game which you have learnt, you just need to select the right book (skill) for the task ahead. If you are here reading this blog, chances are you care about your performance on the rugby pitch, and the outcome of your contribution... you are already building the positive mindset needed to succeed.
In conclusion, rugby players need to train their minds just as much as their bodies to be successful on the field. Mental preparation, emotional management, communication, staying focused on the present, and building a positive mindset are essential strategies to stay focused and confident on the rugby field. By applying these techniques, I hope you can achieve your goals as a rugby player and enjoy the game to the fullest.
If you would like to build on this further, here at 360 Rugby we are able to provide you with 1 to 1 training sessions that can address these, and any other concerns you may have about your game. As discussed before - we need smart, forward thinking, responsive athletes on the field that can surprise, shock and awe their opposition... this is where we come in!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 07840805517.