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Focusing on result will only heighten RWC anxiety

August 10, 2011

Focusing on result will only heighten RWC anxiety

Leading sport psychologist Gary Hermansson says the All Blacks need to put their ultimate goal out of their minds if they are to succeed in the upcoming rugby World Cup.

Dr Hermansson was an academic staff member at Massey for many years and now provides sport psychology support to the University’s Academy of Sport athletes. An event was held at the Manawatu campus last week to celebrate the launch of Dr Hermansson’s new book Going Mental in Sport: Excelling Through Mind-Management.

In it, Dr Hermansson at one point uses the All Blacks as a case study to show the impacts of anxiety. He says throughout their history the All Blacks have excelled in beating bigger nations in test series and New Zealand’s identity has built on that.

“But the advent of the Rugby World Cup and professional rugby has altered that,” he says. “The opposition has caught up. Time and again we see the team play with exuberance in pool play then tighten up when the knockout phase arrives.”

Dr Hermansson says the All Blacks, like other New Zealand national team typically become preoccupied with the result – the need to win.

“One of the fundamentals of sport psychology is to control the controllables. Every athlete can parrot that expression, but not everyone can do it. Their thinking patterns go from what to do right now, in the game, to the result. It heightens anxiety and leads to players tensing up. The mind and body are not aligned.”

Dr Hermansson says playing at home should make things much easier for the team. “They will be directly and comprehensively supported by the nation and won’t get that strange disconnect that touring teams often get,” he says.

Going Mental in Sport: Excelling Through Mind-Management provides high-performance athletes and coaches with the skills they need to prepare for and perform at the highest level. It includes chapters on managing conscious and subconscious thinking, core mental strength and managing the moment.

Dr Hermansson has provided psychological support to the New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games teams, and the New Zealand cricket and equestrian teams.


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