Vince Lombardi once said; "Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it character in action".
Mental training is an essential part of my work as a coach. You can do all the work, but in the end it is the mental state of your player that brings it all together. It tells me how I should work together with my players. Over the years I have come to believe that mental training issues are critical to improve the performance of my players. I found also that I can coach and train players in mental skills just as well as I do with rugby skills.
My guide to mental training has been:
- "The Mental Game Plan, a program for all sports", by Albinson and Bull. Unfortunatly not in print anymore, I found some other great books " Winning the mental way" and "Coaching the Inner Edge", both available on Amazon through my booksection.
- A presentation of Joan Duda on motivation, a big name in sports psychology. She was involved in the American Gymnastics team.
Her presentation on the ego - vs - task orientation helped me to understand how to create an environment in which my players feel confident to develop their skills.
Based on these books I started working with one of my players, just kicked out of the National Team. Just the fact that after doing the assesment we had a plan to get back in already improved his confidence! The book took us through the following steps:
- Assessment of strengths and weaknesses of the player
- Determining the priorities (relaxing, concentration, building self confidence, parking of errors)
- Practising relaxation techniques using a self made tape + walkman
- Working on concentration, clearing the mind and focus
Each step starts with a very specific goal setting program. The work improved his game and his self confidence grew. We never needed to tackle the building self confidence, parking of errors topics as described in the book! The most fascinating thing for me as the coach was that you can learn your players mental skills as well and used the book successfully with other players too.
The biggest thing is keeping the players focused at their individual performance at that specific moment in the game, all the rest is not important.
Mental Training and LTAD
With the development of the player throughout the years different aspects of mental training can be addressed. Look at the LTAD website for more information.