“This guy just has so much time on the ball.” Ever heard that expression? Sure you did.
The aspect of coaching and sport that has always interested me the most is the mental aspect towards different sports, and just how much the mental side of the ‘game’ contributes to the physical, or skills side.
In many ways it is all connected of course. You would have heard that a player is often referred to as a confidence player or that a player has really just hit a bad patch in his career, whether it be through rugby, cricket or any sport really.
This however clearly indicates that there is a definite relation between a player’s form, and his mental state. Most coaches dismiss the importance of ‘mental coaching’ not because it is not important – there are many studies that proves this – but because they don’t understand it themselves.
And it is not only coaches… It is players too. Remember the infamous quote by one of our most celebrated Boks who said “Coach, kan ons nie net die kak uit hulle uit tekkel nie?” (Coach can’t we just tackle the sh*t out of them) when presented with more scientific approaches to the game? No prizes for guessing who said it!
All of this however made me ask one question; “Can rugby genius be coached, or is it born into a player?”
Well my answer is yes and no and I will try to explain.
Yes it can be coached because it is also just simply exercising the most important muscle and organ in the human body, the brain, and no because if you want to do this, the player must be willing to be coached in this aspect of the game.
To some people this comes rather naturally, and the scientists will tell you that a person’s mental capacity or ability and how it adapts, or how adaptable it is, will be influenced by many factors which includes culture, upbringing, social surroundings and many more boring topics I would rather avoid.
The fact of the matter is that some sportsmen and women have developed this 6th sense or extraordinary gift or skill, through coaching of their brain and expanding their mental capacity – either consciously through opening themselves up to specific and specialised coaching in this area, or sub-consciously thanks to their surroundings through the years growing up the scientists are on about.
In rugby specifically however you will hear often that the mark of a special or gifted player is how he reads the game, and through this almost predict plays in advance.
This is mainly achieved through pattern recognition which goes hand in hand with coaching that old brain of yours to read what goes on in front of you, and interpret the outcome. I mentioned before in another article it is what we try to coach players to almost learn their own language, not only through actual communication but to pick up patterns and trends (body movement, ball movement, etc.) in the play of your own team mates and that of the opposition, in relation to field position, and the position of the ball (remember the X, Y and Z axis theory?).
This of course achieved on the training pitch first (where the main problem lies with most coaches) where players are not coached in game specific conditions and scenarios enough in my view.
You see factual evidence exists that we as human beings are actually half a second behind from the real world. It takes half a second for the unconscious mind to process incoming sensory stimuli, yet we are not aware of this time lag.
When you stub your toe, you get the impression of knowing about it straight away. This illusion of immediacy is created by an ingenious mechanism that backdates conscious perceptions to the time when the stimulus entered the brain – we are tricked into thinking we feel things earlier.
So what makes rugby genius possible?
Easy, the ability of sensory manipulation, or training your brain to interpret, or predict the outcome of any specific scenario through coaching the brain, and pattern recognition.
Gives a whole new meaning to ‘head’s up rugby’ or ‘decision making ability’ in rugby now doesn’t it?
Actual examples? Well think of the difference between a Dan Carter and Morné Steyn. The difference between Richie McCaw and Schalk Burger, or the difference between Adi Jacobs and a Jaque Fourie. Now you tell me, who uses his brain more?
Till next time!Tweet