By Kimball Kjar
The term “high performance” gets tossed around a little too liberally in rugby and other sports circles in my opinion.
At the end of the day being high performance isn’t about the tools a person has at their disposal. Rather, it’s a commitment to excellence.
In other words, it’s a state of mind.
For many players new to the game high performance is sticking a big tackle on an opponent. For others it about the color of their boots or the style of their warm-ups.
During my early years as a wrestler, I counted my fair share of ceiling tiles. As inexperienced and new to the sport as I was the opponents that I feared the most were guys who looked “high performance.”
They wore the nice wrestling shoes, they had the nice head gear and their warm-up suits were of nice and clean variety (all wrestlers will appreciate the “clean” aspect). They had beat me before I even stepped on the mat.
Little did I realize at the time, those so-called “high performance” wrestlers were straw men: nothing more than weak attempts at the looking the part.
Later in my career I realized that the wrestlers that I should ultimately respect the most were the ones who came to weigh-in looking like they just got done working at the farm.
Mud was on their clothes, they typically didn’t care about what they wore overall, their appearance was uncouth by normal standards and most parents would look at the kid and say, “I’m glad he’s not my son.”
These wrestlers didn’t care about the fancy shoes or the fancy head gear. They simply cared about one thing and one thing only: winning.
And winning meant being their best where it mattered, not where it didn’t.
To me this is high performance. It’s the inner drive to be your best in all of the areas that you have control and in the areas that will have an impact on your performance.
Here are some examples of what some might term high performance.
Player A: “I just got those new boots that are lighter than any other kind out there!”
Player C: “We watched the video from the game last night. We had some awesome tackles on their big kid!”
Are any of the above comments high performance? It’s possible that they could be, without knowing much of the context and who’s saying them.
But by-in-large, would it be fair to assume that top flight international athletes, those who we can assume who are by definition “high performance,” worry about any of he above concepts outlined in those comments?
I would argue that they don’t. Because the over-riding interest of winning and being the best possible rugby player that they can possibly be isn’t about the superficial details.
I recently chatted with Craig White, one of the world’s top strength and conditioning coaches for the game of rugby. He recently worked with Wales in their lead up to the 2011 RWC.
The training protocols that he had the Welsh players under take would take much more room to detail than what I can offer in this small column.
But one of the things he had them do during his time there that stood out to me is the Welsh recovery protocol that they’ve held on to since Craig has since moved on from working for Wales.
After Wales’ historic Triple-Crown victory over England at Twickenham, something that has never been done before in the history of Welsh rugby, the players, most still dressed in their full kit, walked to the mobile cryotherapy truck, which was parked in the Twickenham West parking lot and was nothing more than a souped-up RV, and all of the players completed their 3 minute bout with the cryotherapy chamber.
Craig told me that the players’ bodies are exposed to temperatures of -130C to -140C essentially shocking the system and causing the body to reroute the blood flow from the extremities to the bodies core vital organs.
This process helps clean the body’s systems of toxins and increases recovery rates of players following intense physical activity.
The method of cryotherapy recovery isn’t necessarily new, but the commitment of the Welsh players, stills dressed in full kit, walking across the parking lot at Twickenham, after their team’s biggest victory in the history of their participation within the 6 Nations Championship, to go and be exposed to subfreezing temperatures, is to me, a true display of high performance.
These players knew what was important and what wasn’t important. They didn’t flash their high performance about, although they easily could have, given the enormity of the situation.
But the Welsh players committed to be the best that they could possibly be in all the areas to which they had a control and that meant recovering as best they could. And that of course, meant entering the “evil saunas,” as Welsh captain Sam Warburton has affectionately called them.
We will all have our various levels of high performance given our surroundings and resources. But we can all share a similar level of commitment to achieve our highest potential no matter our circumstances.
Old worn-out uniforms or the lack of a nice scrum machine shouldn’t deter us from being the best that we can possibly be in the game of rugby. In other words, our circumstances shouldn’t dictate our reaction to them.
As soon as I learned this maxim as a young wrestler, the results began to take care of themselves. I began to win and enjoy my experience a whole lot more.
And just as the Welsh players have committed themselves to an unseemly recovery protocol the level of their commitment to the details that matter most, I’m sure, will aid them in their pursuit of excellence.
And I’m just as sure, as it was for me, that the results will take care of themselves.
Kimball Kjar established the Propel Rugby Academy in 2010 with the goal of helping players and coaches develop the skills necessary to play and coach at the highest levels possible. Kjar’s Propel Posts focus on a range of topics that cover player and coach development and other related areas.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.