What can one man do?

Well this weekend’s 6 nations was one of the most exciting I’ve ever seen.  If such a thing as a script for matches exists, then this weekend was pure improv!  France against Italy was supposed to be a walkover for the French, Ireland against Wales was supposed to be close but not controversial and Scotland against England was supposed to be an English scoring frenzy!  In reality we were treated to three fascinating encounters which really demonstrated how good a tournament the 6 nations has become.

Picking up on recent blogs, I feel obliged to offer some psychological angle on the Scottish game.  The truth is that as a team, I felt Scotland performed very strongly and it was those inches again (see last blog!) that prevented us from securing an unexpected victory at Twickenham.  The approach was in stark contrast to that witnessed against Wales and something that the team should be very proud of.

What I found interesting over the weekend were the individual contributions made by players to some of the matches.  While Rugby is a team sport and it is the combined efforts that lead to success, it is often the efforts of individuals that can inspire and motivate. 

In the Scottish match, it was Chris Patterson’s commitment that struck me.  He has always been an outstanding kicker but often criticised for not always offering as much in open play.  He regularly made significant yardage and his try-saving tackle has to be one of the highlights of this year’s tournament? 

It would be remiss of me not to discuss the Italian performance which really has been the talking point of the weekend.  In particular I want to highlight the individual performance of Mirco Bergamasco.  He did not begin the match well and missed some early opportunities with the boot.  However, when many athletes in the same situation might have become disheartened or panicked, he chose to play himself into the match progressively.  In so doing, he focussed his energy into completing the task (i.e. kicking goals) to the best of his ability, rather than worrying over the final outcome of missed kicks.  When the penultimate kick went over, his emotional response towards his team-mates seemed to signal his new-found belief that this match was far from over.

This exemplifies something that athletes often ask me for help with, especially when the task involves high levels of precision.  ‘I know how to do the task, but what do I do when it just isn’t happening for me, no matter what I try?’  There is no easy answer, but I usually work with the athlete on learning to ‘act’ the part of a player performing their best.  In trying to ‘act’ like this player (i.e. the one that they often are) they learn to re-focus their attention onto the process of performing the task.  In playing himself into the game, Mirco Bergamasco found a renewed sense of confidence which undoubtedly contributed to his ice-cold approach to the final kick.

The 6 nations tournament has become a great event because of the 6 great teams that compete each week.  But sometimes it’s nice to note the outstanding and often inspiring efforts of individual players who stand out.  In choosing to play above the standard of the game, these players in turn help to raise the intensity of their own team, and make the tournament the fascinating and enthralling event that it is.  I cannot wait for super Saturday…

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