Performance Under Pressure
In order for me to illustrate my point in this article, I am going to bring your attention to a conversation that took place between Sir Clive Woodward and Jonny Wilkinson 10 years after the England Rugby Team won the World Cup in dramatic fashion against Australia in 2003.
They are talking about pressure. This is always a fascinating discussion in the world of sports psychology.
For me it always came down to pressure and my aim was always to build a team that could withstand anything and keep their composure.
The most pressurised week I remember was the build-up to our opening game of the World Cup against South Africa. I thought if we won then, we would make the final and I’ve never seen more tension in the whole team than that week.
For me, pressure was half-time against Wales in the quarter-finals (Wales were leading 10-3). It was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in a changing room. But talking about it now it feels like one of the best because I’ve never felt anything more intense than that team talk.
Everybody thinking: this isn’t supposed to be happening, this cannot finish now. Half the guys want to scream and shout, half are speechless, but it was an intensive, organised re-gathering. Even the structure of half-time was meticulous. Two minutes to get your kit, then into groups: who would talk when and what about. When it really counts, that structure really means something.
To quote Wilkinson "It was an intensive, organised, re-gathering".
He is talking about how they responded during a short incredibly intense period between the two halves of Rugby.
It is a critical insight.
This idea of having strict routines which are consistently practised so when we find ourselves in times of scrutiny, difficulty and challenge, we can get our head back into a place where we are able to deliver a winning performance.
This is vital for both individuals and teams and not just in the world of sport. How do you respond when the pressure is really on?