What’s the one thing most athletes wish for? Well, obviously, it’s the same thing every other person wishes for: SUCCESS. Every athlete whether that be in the Super League or the Pennine League, whether that be the Aviva premiership or Yorkshire RFU 1 wants to cross fantastic milestones as they take their careers to new, glorious levels.
However, with great dreams come even greater responsibilities. Facing the day-to-day demands of sports, family and the spotlight can put pressure on any athlete especially a rugby player. If care is not taken, success will be nothing but a dream. Even when you succeed, you need absolute focus to stay in glory.
In the bid to attend and remain in greatness, your number one wish as a rugby player is always to perform better irrespective of the pressure, loss, or any self-doubt you may be facing. Remember that you are not the only one. Everyone wants better performance levels for themselves, but they also want to suffer from fewer injuries, recover faster in the case where they are injured, and improve their learning and decision-making abilities.
Now, imagine a tool capable of giving all that and MUCH MORE! Other athletes and even coaches will be willing do whatever it takes to get that tool.
Curious yet? Well…
it gets even better. Imagine that such a tool is free and legal.
The good news is, such a tool exists already and most rugby players know this tool as meditation. The bad news, on the other hand, is that most athletes and coaches consider meditating as irrational. They see it as hippie/monk like tool that only Western people with a backpack in Thailand do.
Also, because of its close ties with most Eastern religions, meditation has now gained an undeserved reputation as something reserved for religious fanatics.
I am here to tell you today, right now in the present moment…
Meditation Can Change your Game!!
In 2014, the South Sydney Rabbitohs won the National Rugby League 30-6 against the Canterbury Bulldogs after nearly 43 years. The historic win was well deserved especially after an exceptional performance on the field the entire season. The team later revealed that alongside their regular training, they embraced meditation. They kept meditating as a group three times a week for 20 minutes through the season.
In the video below done by OutOFYourMind.com.au you can see players including Clive Churchill medal winner, Sam Burgess, his brother Tom, Luke Keary and Lote Tuquiri appear on film in meditation poses, converts to the new approach.
“We’ve been able to stay calm, maybe when we were on a real high and we’ve scored a few tries, to bring us back down to the base, to stay nice and humble and to control our emotions a bit better,” Sam said of the course.
See video here:
Now you have seen evidence are you slightly more intrigued? I hope so!
You see meditation is a useful tool for Rugby players in helping them manage their mental health and improve their overall wellbeing. Evidence has shown that the difference between the more successful players and the less fortunate ones lies in their psychological and not physical skills. Successful players tend to have a more advanced mental ability.
Almost every one has heard something about meditation, our favourite martial arts movies have the heroes meditating before any big fight. Meditation is gaining popularity more and more and is now being lauded as an excellent practice.
However, what is meditation? What does it truly mean? A quick Google search will offer you more than a hundred answers to the question of what meditation is all about.
The truth is that a lot of these definitions and answers are biased because they are influenced by the author’s personal practices and beliefs. They end up just recycling what they already know instead of letting you explore the vastness that surrounds meditation. Before making an attempt to define the term meditation, it is imperative that you examine some of the misconception surrounding meditation as a rugby player.
Misconceptions About Meditation Every Rugby Player Must Ignore
- Meditation Is All About Emptiness
A lot of newbies think that meditation means sitting perfectly still and emptying yourself of all emotions thanks to most Kung Fu movies.
While there is some truth in this, it is not all there is to meditation; it is merely an aspect of it. This type of meditation is known as Zen meditation. It is channeled towards attaining Zazen. The important thing you should note here is that Zazen is a goal brought about by meditation and not the actual meditation.
There is always intent to the practice of meditation and if your intent is to be as still as a rock and empty of all thought then you’re probably hoping to attain Zazen. You would have to become a “rugby monk”, shave your head and give up all worldly things to be able to focus on attaining Zazen.
Zen meditation is simply a method of meditation. There are many different ways to practice meditation and not every one of them aims at achieving stillness.
Vipassana meditation is the most common technique found in Thailand and is the type I practice.
The goal of this type of meditation is to achieve Nirvana. Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person’s individual desires and suffering go away.
You train yourself to be aware of the body’s action, the rise and fall of your chest as you inhale and exhale, the movement of your feet and legs as you walk, as well as your feelings, your thoughts, and finally, the state of mind you are in. Walking, sitting and lying meditation are but a few of vipassana techniques. When the mind is untrained, concentration can be shattered by the slightest stimuli -noise, smell, heat, hunger, pain, etc. The key is to become aware of what happens, but not dwell on it.
Again, unless you want to become a Monk then Nirvana is not achievable but more clarity, peace & a stress free playing life is.
- Meditation Is Easy
Anyone saying that meditation is easy is either doing it wrong or trying to sell you something. Meditation requires a lot of effort. Believing that something is easy, usually makes it easier to perform but make no mistake; it does not change the level of difficulty only how your mind perceives it.
With this logic, any school of meditation you adhere to can be easy which is a good thing for you. The problem will arise when you try to market meditation to your team as an easy practice.
- Meditation Is Not Relaxation or Peace
A lot of individuals take up meditation to help them relax or find peace. Proper relaxation is essential to meditating but just relaxing is not meditation. Peace and relaxation are some of the most noticeable by products of practicing meditation. What more do you need to be a great rugby player than to have peace that excels in you?
The Truth About Meditation you Should Never Forget
By now, you are most likely wondering if knowing what meditation isn’t, will give you a better understanding of what it is. However, what you do know, if you’ve been paying attention, is that meditation can be done in different ways and no matter your method of meditating, several elements are common to all.
Some of these elements include:
With all that in mind, meditation can be said to be applying genuine effort to focus yourself intentionally. It is the simplest way you can try to define meditation. The problem most people have with this definition is its simplicity which is ironic. They want their definition to have a sense of spirituality in it making it bigger than it needs to be.
As a rugby player, one thing is sure. Learning to meditate daily can offer a host of benefits to you.
The Benefits of Meditation for Rugby Players
As an athlete and a rugby player, you may already know that the greatest opponent you can face is yourself. Overcoming this enemy is the first step in becoming a great rugby player, and this can be achieved through meditation. Although meditation is an excellent method of bettering yourself, it also includes a host of other benefits.
Some of these include:
- Better Focus
You may practice 24/7, have the best training regime and equipment and still end up losing the game if you get on the field and lack focus. The difference between missing and scoring your focus can determine a field goal. Meditation is an excellent way of increasing your state of concentration even when you are not alone. When you make meditation a part of your life, you’ll be able to focus irrespective of the chanting crowds like Headingley’s South Stand, the distraction from your opponent and the enemy within.
- Better Pain Management
Rugby is a physical sport, no arguments there. And with all the tackling that goes on, it is no surprise that a lot of players are usually dealing with one form of pain or another. The unfortunate side effect of endurance sports is that it can do a lot of damage to the body. Mediating is known to help people in handling their pain better and can do the same for you as a rugby player.
- Helps You Face Your Fears Head-on
Getting back on the field especially after a long break away due to injury can be an antagonizing experience. A player’s worst nightmare (other than always getting benched) is to get paralyzed by fear on the field. It can lead to a lot of mistakes causing you and your team the game. Meditating daily can help to efficiently numb the fear centers of your brain even when you’re not actively meditating. This alone makes meditation an asset to every rugby player.
- Boosts the Body’s Immune System
Getting sick during the season especially during crucial matches is something most rugby players try to avoid at all costs. If you’re sick, then you can’t play. Players are always on the lookout for ways to escape falling ill; trying at all kinds of home remedies and whatever else they can lay their get. With constant meditation, your immune system gets strengthened leaving you to focus more on the game as it reduces your chances of falling sick.
- Reduces Self-Doubts
A great rugby season is will always be about the ups and downs. While each member of the crowd doesn’t want their favourite team to lose, the simple truth is that losing is also part of the game. As a player, losing can have an effect on you mentally especially if you missed something as vital as the winning goal. Getting out of such thoughts can be hard. It will lead to further mistakes and result in a downward spiral if left unchecked. Meditation is useful in keeping up your mental balance, reducing self-doubts, and letting you bounce back after a defeat.
- It Increases Your Resilience
The success stories of most Rugby players have one underlying factor which is resiliency. They know that achieving success means accepting that you may fail repeatedly. Meditating helps in increasing your inborn fighting spirit, and this makes you resilient. It allows you to completely separate and from any negative thought keeping you from fulfilling your objectives.
- Helps to Reduce Stress
Stress is a constant in life, doubly so for rugby players and athletes in general. Most players take pride in functioning in an environment full of high-stress levels. Instead of trying to cope with high stress, why not take steps to reduce the stress in your environment? A smart way to do this is to meditate briefly before any game.
- Keeps Your Emotions in Check
The spirited disposition of rugby sport coupled with the stress levels that surround it leads to an accumulation of emotions just waiting to burst. It can result in uncontrollable bursts of violence if not handled properly. Meditation makes you more aware and mindful of your feelings, giving you better control over them
- Better Sleep Patterns
A Rugby player’s simplest asset is a good quality night of sleep. No player wants to be tired on the field on something as important as a championship game. Meditation helps to improve the way you sleep.
- Improves Your Game
Players train daily to bring their game to the next level and achieve perfection or as close to it as possible. Sometimes when training, it is easy to miss your blind spots, and that is one reason why coaches are so important, they can see any blind spot a player may have. Meditation practices can help you to identify any weaknesses you may have and thereby improve your gameplay even without direction from your coach.
Meditation Tips for Rugby Players
- For some people meditation comes easy to them while for others, it requires a lot of practice to perfect.
- The first step is preparation which means finding a nice quiet training room where you won’t be disturbed. You can decide to stand, sit, or even lie down depending on what you find comfortable.
- A lot of teachers or training books advise you to close your eyes because it is essential in avoiding distractions.
- Start off with some breathing exercises. Breathe in and out deeply while being aware of the rising and falling of your abdomen.
- Try to visualise something or someplace relaxing, perhaps that Barcelona trip you went on last summer, or maybe just a place you always feel at peace. Wherever you imagine should help you in relaxing and keeping calm.
- Thoughts can sometimes pop up when you least need the distraction. Repeating a word or mantra is a way of drowning out all the noise of your daily worries and thoughts. You don’t even have to say your chosen mantra out loud. Simply repeating it in your mind is good enough.
Another meditative technique you can try is the body scan method. It involves focusing on specific parts of the body and consciously trying to relax the muscles in those body parts.
Whatever method you chose, the results won’t come easy. It will require a lot of practice just like everything else in your life.
The great part about meditation is that you don’t have to wait for your coach or your teammates before you can practice it. Simply putting in the effort, you put into your other training practices is enough to make you a better rugby player.
Success is a choice. It does not have to be a dream if you put your heart to it and lead your body as the vessel of your mind.
Whether you shrug this article of as hippy nonsense or take action and start meditating, as many other successful rugby players have, I wish you all the best on your journey.