With the tournament up and running, aside from some directional input and making the right call in selection, the coaching staff have done their work. Now its down to the players on the pitch to do what they do best - play rugby.
As the tournament progresses toward the real business end, pitching the best in the world against each other, the mental aspects of the game come to the fore as much as the physical and technical aspects.
How teams and specific players respond under pressure can make the marginal difference that turns a game - a crucial penalty kick, a critically timed drop goal, not conceding a penalty in your own 22.
Thinking and acting under pressure comes differently to different people. But there are some principles at work.
In the build up to the first game, I have been thinking about a concept I discussed with a sports psychologist a few years ago; what they called "blue zone, red zone".
The two zones represent the twin elements of just about every type of encounter or interaction.
One being what "you" do: your role, your skill sets - the blue zone. It represents what you can control. The other - the red zone is the blue zone of the person or team you are interacting with - which is out of your control.
The point being, when under pressure, many people try to second guess what the other person or team is going to do. That's fine to a point, as there is a great skill in anticipation, but too often, team structure falls apart when the team or individuals concentrate more on someone else's game rather than their own.
As a coach you can spot this if you're prepared to be objective. You can see individuals falling out of position or getting in each others way. The "rub of the green" seems like its always with the other side.
It goes without saying that there are times when we simply meet a team that is better.
However a good team may be beaten by a great team and still come away having played well and be able to find development opportunities from a hard game - rather than falling apart and suffering a defeat over a hard fought loss.
It's how we respond in pressure situations that can determine what happens next.
The same is true in life. How many times have we stopped being the husband, dad, brother or friend people need, because we have been focused on red zones beyond our control rather than being consistent in our blue zone? It's easy to push the focus or blame on to something we can't control, when often we let our own game plan slip, with obvious consequences.
The bible has some interesting advice that can help us to stay "blue zone" focussed.
Speaking of Jesus, it says, "he went about doing good". There were times when he was under intense pressure - but the pressure didn't stop him from doing what was good. Now that's a challenge, especially when I find it tough to be consistent if its tough for me!
But what does doing good look like for me?
Here again there is some helpful advise from the bible: "man, he has showed you what is good - do justly, love mercy and walk in humility before him" - in other words:
- don't be biased in your dealing with people,
- try and look at situations wearing the other persons shoes or through his eyes and
- carry yourself with integrity and a balanced view of who you are.
Why dont we give them a try as our blue zone and build them into our game plan? That way, when we encounter red zone as something we can't control - we can respond from a positive position. Remeber, there are things we may not be able to control, but here's the key, "we" don't need to be controlled by "them".
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