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Nick Evans, Harlequin star and former All Black, paid St John’s a visit on 22 January to speak to our teams about maintaining high-performance levels under pressure.
Nick emphasised that “pressure” is always going to be present in some form, and it is the individual's response to pressure that influenced the outcome of a game. He gave an example; at 23 he was selected to play for New Zealand, and an ex-All Black approached him to chat. Nick was nervous, awaiting the pearls of wisdom from a seasoned player. Instead, he was told: “Don’t mess it up!” highlighting for the first time to 23 year old Nick, the stress an All Black must endure.
Nick defined the steps athletes could take to manage pressure.
1) Prepare! “It is the sacrifices that a player makes that turns them from good to great players.”
2) Practice is an important part of preparation. Nick practiced kicking for 10 hours a week! As he said “What do you do when nobody is looking? Make sure you practice. That will make that 1% difference that will win a game”.
3) Nick highlighted the importance of focusing on areas of weaknesses, without forgetting to practice super strengths. Nick said that areas of strength would give an edge and confidence to a player. It also helped to ensure strong areas continue to improve and evolve.
4) Nick also shared his experience of moving to the UK to play for the Harlequins and the 2011-12 Premiership final victory over Leicester Tigers. He handled the pressure by focusing completely on the task at hand. He rehearsed all the key aspects of kicking a ball in his mind until he was confident about his execution rather than the outcome.
5) Nick spoke about the inevitability of failure. Success comes from learning from failure, whether it was a messed up pass or kick or a lost match. If success doesn't come quickly, stick with practice and persevere “If it doesn’t work for you first time around, bide your time and keep practising!”
6) Nick spoke about the importance of deep breathing, to lower heart rate and remaining calm. Ensure that body language remains positive. Look confident no matter how you feel inside.
7) Nick highlighted the importance of a strong support network. He spoke of the pain at being dropped from the All Blacks and how his friends and family pulled him through. He encouraged athletes to surround themselves with people that will encourage and support when things go awry.
When asked why New Zealand are one of the best teams in the world Nick replied “It is because we play rugby in the park from a young age and all boys play rugby. It is our main sport.”
Thank you to Nick, for sharing his time and expertise with St John's pupils.
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