“If you dont get nervous before a contest,” explained Penrith Panthers Trainer Ronnie Palmer, “it doesnt mean enough to you.” 

Nerves, even for elite athletes, are all in a day’s work. Whether it’s a big game, a job interview or a musical performance, it’s just as important to get your head right as it is to train, study or practice.

Enjoy those nerves

Experienced rugby league player Ryan Hinchcliffe of Melbourne Storm said he gets the occasional case of butterflies before an important match. “Nerves are a good thing – they show that you're ready to go,” he said. “If I wasn't nervous I'd probably be a little bit concerned!” 

Know what’s coming

There are many techniques for ensuring players are both physically and psychologically well-prepared. Penrith Panthers trainer Ronnie Palmer pointed out the importance of getting ready for away games, as they’re often more hostile on the field. “Its all about getting them in the right mind set,” he said. “We’re aiming to make sure there’s no surprises and we’ve got our heads into each game.”

Prepare in advance

This kind of psychological training isn’t just pre-game. St. George Dragons Trainer Andrew Gray said mental preparation and psychologically strength is a process that occurs throughout the entire training regimen. “Mental preparation for a game occurs everywhere within the training facility throughout the whole week,” said Andrew. “Everything they do is about mentally preparing them for this weekend’s game but also for the rest of their career.”

Develop a strategy

Ryan agreed that being strategically prepared can help him feel more comfortable before running out onto the field. “You've got to come up with a game plan to go out and execute against the opposition,” he said. “If you do that really well it gives you confidence that you can handle whatever gets thrown at you.”

Take your time

While group training takes precedence during the majority of the week, the minutes before a game are purely personal. “They get to tune into some music that theyll help get prepared or do whatever theyll do,” said Ronnie. “Its not a collective preparation, until half an hour before the game but prior to that its largely what they feel they need to do.”