"Excited" - that's what we've kept hearing out of the key leaders from the All Blacks and Team NZ over the last month. It's the latest psych buzzword, and has been doing the trick bigtime.

It's all about controlling the emotions - most of us would expect "nerves", but you don't hear these guys talk about that, they flip it on its head, and instead of talking nerves, they talk about excitement.

That's about all Peter Burling said in his regular pre-race interviews on the dock ... "we're just focused on ourselves, and yeah nah, we're just really excited" ... good on ya mate.

The All Blacks have been using that thinking for a while now, and it has clearly osmosed over to Team NZ - a symptom of the great support our top teams have from experts behind the scenes.


"Excited, and walking toward the fear", was a common line coming out of the All Blacks as they prepared for their World Cup defence in 2015.

Beauden Barrett, in his intensely up-close interview in the TV build-up before the first Lions test, said we are just really excited about the challenge, and are ready to "run towards it".

Our old mate Jimmy Spithill on the other hand seemed more focused on American style hype and bravado, which served little purpose in the end. It all sounds tough when you're winning, but this time around it got exposed for what it is - nothing but words.

And ironically, he is the first sports leader I have heard in sometime admit to being nervous, in response to a question on how he felt they were going to go against the Kiwi boat in the second weekend of the America's Cup finals races.

Whoever was advising Jimmy didn't do a great job, or certainly wasn't of the same thinking of a NZ sports psychologist.

All his hype and tough talk just served to distract him and his team from the key tasks at hand, and the only head he got into, was his own. He had opportunities to win more races, but blew them.

Race 8 was typical of someone whose mind was spinning, after a shocker of a start conceding a 14sec lead, he followed up with a succession of mistakes, struggling to control the emotion of the occasion.

So often we hear people say our sports people aren't arrogant or bullish enough, we need to be mentally tougher like the Aussies or the Americans.

Well I for one don't agree, the Kiwi psyche works just fine. There was no need for Team NZ to work themselves up, it serves no purpose. Burling and the team just kept focusing on the task at hand - and as a result, most commentators lauded Burling and the team for their amazing composure.

As Burling said, they preferred to show their toughness on the water, not on the microphone. Team NZ focused on the day to day, the here and now, race by race.

For Jimmy it was more about scrapping and an external attitude, "we will come out swinging" (which he never did).

Hats off to Team NZ, and the All Blacks for their quality performances on the biggest stage (so far ... hoping the ABs win the second test). Steve Hansen, Kieran Read and the rest of the All Blacks will bat away the nerves again against the Lions, and turn that energy into positive excitement, and embrace the challenge.

So, for any weekend warriors, or budding young stars, try the tricks of Team NZ and the All Blacks; try reframing your nerves on gameday into a positive - get excited!

Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.
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