All Blacks' Achilles heel is anxiety: psychologist

Sport psychologist Gary Hermansson says the All Blacks, like other New Zealand national team typically became preoccupied with the result - the need to win. Photo / Getty Images
Sport psychologist Gary Hermansson says the All Blacks, like other New Zealand national team typically became preoccupied with the result - the need to win. Photo / Getty Images

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

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.

Using the All Blacks as a case study in his new book, Going Mental in Sport: Excelling Through Mind-Management, to illustrate the impacts of anxiety, he said throughout their history the team had excelled in beating bigger nations in test series and New Zealand's identity has built on that.

"But the advent of the World Cup and professional rugby has altered that.

"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.''

The All Blacks, like other New Zealand national team typically became 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.''

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

- NZPA

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