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Condor Performance Blog - July 2012 Archives

Friday, July 13, 2012

Mental Analysis of National Rugby League (NRL); Round 18

NRL Round 18 – Titans v Warriors

To borrow from the media to create some hype, this round is a ‘World Exclusive’ as I reveal a chart that I have developed to demonstrate the concept of momentum in a game of rugby league.

Momentum is a term often used by commentators and up until now has been purely based on gut feel or instinct.

Below is a chart that has been created to statistically reflect the momentum of a match via the two components that produce momentum in rugby league; possession and field position.

The chart below resembles the chart of a stock on the sharemarket and hence, can be read in a similar way. In economics its bulls (buyers) v bears (sellers) as they battle over price. In rugby league we have two teams battling for the ball, so in effect, the momentum chart reflects the movement of the ball up and down the field.

For example, uptrends and downtrends can be identified, which indicate momentum shifting in favour of one team or the other. Upward movements in the chart below reflect momentum in favour of the Titans, while downward movements reflect momentum in favour of the Warriors.

Sideways movement in the chart reflect no clear direction in momentum as the teams are engaged in the ‘arm wrestle’ in an effort to build momentum.

The benefits provided by the Condor Momentum Chart include:

• Having a clear picture of who the momentum is with at any stage during the game, which can influence tactical decisions and messages sent out to the team • Being able to identify trends in momentum • Being able to accurately identify events that lead to a shift in momentum • Having data that can be used to help players with decision making and goal setting within the match to assist them create momentum and stop opposition momentum.

Here’s the analysis of the Condor Momentum Chart for the Titans v Warriors match.

• Set’s 1-10 show a sideways movement in the chart indicating no clear direction in momentum, despite the early try from the Warriors in set 2. • Set’s 11-20 show a clear uptrend, indicating momentum is heavily in favour of the Titans before it peaks around sets 22-24. • A reversal in momentum then occurs and a strong downtrend develops, indicating momentum has turned and is now in favour of the Warriors. • The Warriors momentum continues through to set 40, where the Titans start to consolidate. This sees momentum go sideways until set 51 at which point the Warriors create another burst in momentum (pushing towards the -65 line). • Sets 55 through to 70 show mainly sideways movement which the Titans start to get the better of, before conceding momentum in the final 3 sets.


Within psychology, statistics are used to demonstrate the effectiveness of treatments and to measure certain things. Most people are familiar with the type questionnaires that psychologists use.

The Condor Momentum Chart is a step in the direction of being able to use statistics that are already gathered in rugby league in order to develop measurements of mental toughness in rugby league teams and players.

Watch this space as we reveal more of our work in this area.

Feel free to post comments or thoughts on the Condor Momentum Chart (RL).

Saturday, July 07, 2012

RLCM Coach Talk (July 2012) Case Studies by Shayne Duncan

RLCM Coach Talk (July 2012) Case Studies:

1 A player in your team has set a goal to play rep footy. He is so focused on achieving this that he gets too involved during games and plays for himself rather than the team. How do you use goal setting to help this player achieve his goals while at the same time helping the team?

A player as described above is often very motivated to achieve their own personal goals, sometimes even at the expense of the team. These players don’t often ‘buy-in’ to the team goals, unless it suits them, despite saying that they understand the teams’ goals and are ‘on board’. In fact, this type of player is unlikely to respond positively to any form of goal that is given to unless they find a reason to (KPI’s, minimum standards = Assigned Goals).

So, the way to manage them is to have them set their own goals, and then you can help them outline the things they need to do in order to achieve their goals. Here is where you align the individuals’ goals with the teams’ goals. By performing their role and completing the tasks necessary for them to do so, they are indirectly helping the team achieve the team goals. This can be reinforced by using an outline of what their role would be once they are selected in rep football and let them know that you are supporting them in their efforts for selection. The player is happy because you are not trying to turn them into something they are not (a ‘team player’) and you, the coach, are happy because they will now be working in the same direction as the team, despite getting there a different way.

This player often wants to feel special and recognised as being an important member of the team. They like to think that their needs and ambitions are a priority and the teams’ goals and needs are secondary. Often this view has been created during junior football if they were the best player in their team, or used to getting their own way. You can choose to try and change them, or you can choose to work with them.

A survey recently conducted by SKINS found that 10% of players would prefer to be man-of-the-match rather than have his team win; this is the sort of player we are dealing with here. Their high level of motivation is self-centred, but this is not an issue if it is directed properly via the goal setting process. When done properly, both the individual and the team can win.

[Please note, there are consequences for the group if the above suggestion is followed; for example, others may view this as ‘special treatment’ and it may upset the group, thereby creating other issues to manage. This highlights the importance of getting goal setting right because there are ripple effects and consequences if it is done poorly.]

2 Your team train very well but don’t play as well as you know they can on game day, especially when there is pressure on them to win. How do you use goal setting to turn this around or at least rule out goal setting as a possible cause of this issue?

The two classic causes of this are under developed mental skills or poor technical preparation, or both.

Under developed mental skills can lead to a team who has a focus on winning that is greater than their capacity to manage the pressure of delivering the technical skills that produce the result. Not performing as well on game day as they do at training is a sign of players not managing their nerves due to the pressure to perform on game day. The outcome goal (winning) increases their nerves to a point that they cannot manage and a poor performance is produced.

At the NRL level, teams often refer to themselves as being in a ‘re-building phase’ which is designed to reduce expectations of the fans and hence reduce the pressure on the players to win. Teams will also try to adopt the underdog tag in an effort to reduce pressure on players (like the Bulldogs did against Melbourne recently, despite being a top-of-the-table clash which the Bulldogs went onto win comfortably).

If you, or your players, have no expectations to win and you have not got any outcome based goals in place, then you can rule out goal setting as a significant contributor to the stress that produces poor performance on game day. The likely cause is the practice environment where the skill level of the players is being developed, which refers to their technical preparation.

Skill breakdown under the pressure of competition commonly occurs when skills are practiced in a situation that is different from the competition environment. Basically, the practice drills that the players do so well at training are not doing their job in preparing the players for the pressure of competition. If your players rate competing as more mentally demanding than practice (not necessarily more physically demanding), then this is likely to be the reason why your team practices well and plays poorly on game day.

To have players perform well on game day, they must be spending some time practicing their skills under more pressure than they will get on game day. Coaches often won’t do this because errors will occur, but that is the whole point of practicing under pressure – so you can make your errors at training while you are learning to perform under pressure. Then game day isn’t as stressful, because your players have handled more stress at practice during the week.

If your team does prepare under pressure and they still perform poorly on game day, then they need to get better at mental skills such as managing their nerves, controlling their attention, managing emotions, building confidence and so on.

Goal setting then needs to be used to achieve this.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Mental Analysis of National Rugby League (NRL); Round 17

NRL Round 17 – Canberra v St George

This match up was selected due to the media beat up of the ‘Hoodoo’ that the Dragons have when travelling to Canberra. The concept of a ‘hoodoo’ is a classic media strategy to generate interest and emotion in the contest. In relation to performance, ‘hoodoos’ are simply garbage and are only traps for the mentally vulnerable.

Canberra Mental Strengths:

• Used their weight of possession at the start of the match to secure consecutive line drop outs before posting first points for a 6-0 lead. A composed and well executed opening 10 minutes from the Raiders. • Great awareness from an individual on the back of great field position enables a one-on-one strip to give the Raiders possession only 10 metres out. The composure from the opening exchanges is again on display and another drop-out is forced. • Consecutive tries in two minutes are the reward for the Raiders not only completing their sets, but forcing the Dragons to repeatedly bring the ball back off their own line. • Managed to come up with a match winning try with 2 minutes remaining.

Canberra Mental Vulnerabilities:

• Conceded their first try on the back of a penalty despite having the advantage with field position. • Two soft tries from dummy-half when defending their own line cost the Raiders the lead. • A missed penalty conversion to level the scores with 6 minutes to play – the kick missed by plenty and looked like an attempt to ‘guide’ the ball rather than kick it.

St George Mental Strengths:

• They were starved of possession (60-40) in the first half by a Raiders team who completed 95% of their first half sets and enjoyed much better field position but the Dragons still managed to take the lead after 68 minutes of play. A very gutsy performance. • Individual efforts form Soward (40/20), Rein (2 dummy half tries), Nightingale (head clash plus cleaning up numerous kicks) kept the Dragons in the contest and gave them a lift when they needed it.

St George Mental Vulnerabilities:

• This was a game that lesser sides would have lost by plenty, so there is little in the way of mental vulnerabilities showed by the Dragons. In fact, their mental toughness was on display and it kept them in this contest right up to the 78th minute. They were beaten by a technically better team (possession, completions, field position) on this occasion.

Both sides have a chance of making the finals, however, if either of them do they are too inconsistent to threaten for the title. Especially given the change to the McIntyre system that has sudden death games for teams 5-8 in the 1st week of the semi’s.

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