A game changer for tier one ref driven by a legendary All Black mental skills coach - Ruck

A game changer for tier one ref driven by a legendary All Black mental skills coach

Ben O’Keeffe is a regular on the international rugby circuit, yet his approach to game preparation has evolved over the years. One notable change happened four years ago after a chance encounter with a legend in rugby mental skills coaching. 

Alongside our partners at ACME Whistles, RUCK caught up with Ben see how he approaches game preparation and what changed. Ben said:

“I like to stack the front end of my week, so the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday ahead of a weekend match, with all my rugby work.

“By the end of the week, I’m done. 

“I want to be able to wake up on the Saturday of a big match with one or two notes to review, but with a clear mind, confident and ready to go.”

However, this wasn’t always the case. When Ben started overseeing tier one internationals, he took an entirely different approach. Ben explained:

“I adopted this way of working a few years ago when I talked to Gilbert Enoka, the legendary All Blacks mental skills coach. 

“I used to do what I did at university when studying for exams where you do as much study as you can during the week for that exam. You try and cram everything the night before. The morning of the exam you get your notes back out again and you cram some more before you walk into the exam room.

“That’s all I knew so I did with rugby as well. In fact, when I did my first test match between Scotland v Argentina, that’s exactly what I was like with notes on my wall and cramming game day.

“I then bumped into Gilbert and in his wisdom, he said that ‘if I had an All Black pull out all of his notes on a Saturday morning in the change room, I’d tell him to put them away and just trust what you’ve done during the week – then just go out there and deliver.’

“It was great advice and I ended up doing exactly that for my next game between South Africa v France. It was just an amazing feeling to be able to wake up and have a clear head.”

Ever since, Ben’s game preparation at the start of the week allows him to take some time to relax on a Friday before the game, by doing a ‘captains run’ that evening looking over one to two key things for the match and with his golf clubs now a regular travel companion to international games.

“As I do all my work early in the week, I always try and play around the golf on a Friday. I take my sticks everywhere. 

“I either play by myself or with friends or assistants for the match. It clears my head and I find that things about the game can pop up into my mind that I’ll just naturally work through between shots, and then before you know it, I’ll get to my ball.

“It’s the perfect way for me to relax, unwind and have space to allow my mind to think about the game in an unpressured environment.”

To find out more about ACME Whistle’s support for rugby at all levels, visit www.acmewhistles.com 

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