By Bruce Cook, IRB Training Manager (based on an original article by Rick Newkirk)
What makes a good player better, or a poor player good? Sound basic skills? Size? Strength? Scoring ability? Speed? Perhaps it's Attitude. The ability to accept situations and make them work in their favour.
Losers never seem to know why they lose. They blame the referees for poor decisions, the ground conditions, the training program, their teammates, etc. Winners on the other hand play above the problems.
A wise man once said, " It's not what life hands us, but what we do about it". What is the most important measurement on rugby pitch? Without a doubt, it is the six inches between your ears.
Winning and losing comes down to who can stay focused. Great players never let their opponent or outside conditions control their game. They are mentally tough and mentally conditioned. It's easy to get frustrated when pressure and mistakes happen. The more you dwell on it, the more mistakes you'll make.
Show sportsmanship! It's easy to be a good winner, but it takes real class to hold your head up after a tough loss. Great players never take losing well. If you gave 110% during the game, and you were beaten, there is no shame in having lost. Give credit to the team who played better on that given day. Learn from it and let it go.
The respect you'll gain from opponents and all supporters on both sides are well worth it. Don't blame the referee or touch judge for the loss. How many mistakes did you make in the game, which contributed, to your teams defeat? The referee as are you, is only human and fallible.
Stay in shape! A 'man of the match' is no braver nor in general terms no more skilled than the other players, but they keep going all game. Spend as much time caring for your body as you put into your game.
Eat well, get the correct amount of rest, train as you should each week, and stay away from drugs. Training on your own isn't easy, but as the great American Football Coach Vince Lombardi said, "fatigue makes cowards of us all".
To lose a contest because you run out of gas in the last 15 minutes is unforgivable. If you lose a game, make sure it was because they were better players and had better skills, not physically fitter.
IT'S NEVER OVER UNTIL THE FAT LADY SINGS
Never give up! Winners never quit. Finding a way to win is the mark of a great team. Nothing is impossible when you believe. You will be surprised what can happen when you never give up.
COMMITMENT AND HARD WORK
Work hard at your game and be aggressive. Always play hard and within the Laws of rugby. The team whose work is persistent usually comes out on top. Show enthusiasm! Make a commitment to excel, and you will never stop improving. When things you did yesterday still look big to you today, you haven't done much today!
There is no substitute for training and practicing your rugby skills. Don't count the days.....make each day count! The only person that keeps you on the bench and from being in the run on 15 is you!
Strong players criticise themselves, not their teammates. They are skilled in self-evaluation. Everyone has room for improvement no matter what the level of play, and talking about someone else's shortcomings never helps improve your game.
Take an interest in your team and friendships will grow along with the success of the team. Remember, there is no "I" in team. It takes 15 players and the reserves working together to become successful.
Never be afraid to take charge. When a teammate is 'down' pick them up with some encouragement and get back on track. At training be the first one on the field and the last one to leave. Talk on the field; assist whenever possible, let people know when you have an idea, or when there is a flaw in the defence.
What you can see as plain as day may be hard for someone else to see. Never take any opponent for granted, respect everyone's ability. Be a player who says, "can" not "can't". Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Be a total player!
Play hard! But never take yourself so serious that you forget to enjoy what rugby can do for you and what you can do for rugby. Enjoy the game, many lessons about life are taught from your adventures in rugby both on and off the field. Take what it has to give you and apply it to what life throws your way.
Remember, we cannot always control what goes on outside, but we can control what goes on inside. Be mentally tough, never let what happens during a contest take you out of your game. Concentrate on what is important, experience and learn. Be the best you can, and the best will come back to you.
Champions are made, never born. Ability can get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.