Every rugbier knows that physical, technical and tactical training isn’t enough to face a sport like rugby. Practicing rugby it’s hard both physically and mentally, and yet it’s not frequent that coaches work the psychological aspect of the game with their players.
Chances are, no other sport holds such a close relationship between the physical strength needed to practice it and the obligation of such a strict mental discipline. A rugby player in general, moves within two poles, the aggressiveness of one part and the control of it by the other. Observing the individual characteristics of each player and learn to know the psychological profile required by the sport, allows that coaches can detect the ideal psychological strategies to work with these athletes and thus optimize their performance on the field.
Mental toughness is described as a series of attributes, amongst which are included; self-confidence, assertive management of emotions such as fear, anger, and frustration, control of attention, control of perceptions, motivation, positive energy, and attitude control. Psychologically focused players feel more able to positively influence the outcome of a match, which allows them to be more competitive and experience less stress in the field. They also tend to own a higher commitment to their team and a deep-felt sense of challenge.
These are athletes who conceive difficult situations as opportunities for personal and professional growth instead of thinking about it as a threat. They are able to play better on stressful matches and maintain high levels of competitiveness. How did these star players achieve that? By controlling their negative energy, being able to keep emotions under control, and remain calm in situations of pressure, these athletes surpass others because they are able to be concentrated for longer periods, this distinguishes a pretty good rugbier from an elite one.
Rugby is a sport of physical contact, sometimes highly intense, in which it is necessary to be able to make quick decisions taking into consideration multiple elements such as; the space, the time, the companions, the adversaries, among others; so it requires mental agility and the ability to control stress. During the game, it’s possible to identify several sources of stress that can affect the athlete and the team, during training, before or during the game. The factors can be personal or situational, the whole response is summarized to how these circumstances are handled.
Research with rugby players indicates that mental errors, injuries, and failures in physical condition are the most stressing factors for professional athletes. To deal with these, players use strategies such as increasing concentration, blocking thoughts and increasing physical effort.
Based on the ability of management of the two factors mentioned above, we can conceive a profile of the psychological characteristics that rugby players usually have. Each player is an individual with personal characteristics, but the following properties are what could define the rugby player mentally and psychologically:
They are athletes with high levels of self-confidence, self-motivation, self-discipline, and self-control, so they usually have high levels of commitment to the sport. In general, they are attracted by the challenge of game and training. Many of them stand out for their extraordinary capacity of concentration, their control of attention and emotions, and exceptional resistance to adversity. Rugbiers are also able to transform feelings such as anger or mental states such as anxiety into performance, once they are in their zone of optimal performance, being able to control and send negative energy (the result of constant physical contact).
It’s correct to assume that the particular personality of those who choose to practice this sport, allows them to bear the characteristics of confrontation and high physical-tactical demand that rugby requires. For this reason, mental training and psychological interventions are necessary to help rugbiers to gain skills to face the singularities of the game and thus increase their performance. As being a collective sport, such psychological strategies could be worked together as a team or for each individual player.