Expected to win?

I’ll be completely honest; this isn’t the blog I wanted to write after the Scotland game!  After such a promising display in Paris, I probably wasn’t alone in expecting a similar performance and perhaps also a victory?  This expectation, however, may actually lie at the root of the problems that were witnessed at Murrayfield on Saturday.  While we cannot know for certain, I will now try to offer a possible interpretation.

As I said in my blog last week, Scotland were facing a class French side at home and were not expected to win.  This may have actually allowed them to put aside their fear of losing and instead concentrate on the process of playing good rugby, completing their individual roles and playing as a strong team.  As a result of this, on Saturday, the Scots had an air of expectation about them which may have been their undoing.  In becoming increasingly focussed on the outcome and the consequences of losing, they may have actually made things harder than they needed to be.

In some recent research, I investigated competitive anxiety in elite athletes competing in an event they were expected to win.  Despite being highly experienced athletes, they reported higher levels of anxiety compared with training.  Moreover, I found altered hormone levels which showed that they had physiologically changed their preparation as a result of the anxiety they felt about the competition.  As I said earlier, we have no way of knowing if this was the case for the Scotland team, but it might make sense…..

Nerves are inevitable in competitive sport and should form part of your preparation to compete.  Even if you are the favourite and capable of winning an event, it can often feel like an ordeal to go out to win.  The best advice is to focus your energy on the process of completing the event, rather than the outcome. 

Captain, Alastair Kellock reported on twitter that “we weren’t good enough on Saturday…..but we will fix it”.  Strong words in a difficult time, so hopefully next week’s blog will be about coming back from disappointments!

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