Psychology of wheelchair rugby

Ross Hall

The principal lecturer in Sport Psychology, Ross Hall, reveals the techniques that helped prepare the British wheelchair rugby team to compete in the Beijing Paralympics 2008.

Ross Hall explains how mastering the following simple techniques can reduce anxiety, nerves and stress.


Ross Hall

Lead psychologist for the GB Paralympic wheelchair rugby team and principal lecturer in sport psychology at the University of Glamorgan

To prepare wheelchair athletes for the same psychological issues as other sports professionals.

The heart of the problem

  • Physiologically it's your breathing rate that increases first, and then it's your heart rate that increases as a response to that when you start to feel nervous.
  • This causes your blood pressure to increase, you get a flushed feeling in your cheeks and you then start to think 'Oh I'm nervous' which makes everything worse.
  • By controlling your breathing, you can control your heart rate and its effects.
  • Next time you watch a rugby game look at what rugby kickers do. They take three of four deep breaths to centre everything and keep them focused on the task at hand.

It's a chain reaction

  • Negative thoughts can cause negative feelings and if you don't like the way you are thinking and feeling it can have a huge effect on performance.
  • The negative thoughts and feelings cause you to become distracted and lose focus on the task at hand.
  • By controlling the thoughts you can control the feelings. Positive thoughts arouse positive feelings.
Did you know?

The British wheelchair rugby team are ranked top in Europe and fourth in the world.(2008).

Improving your mental preparation technique

  • Practice makes perfect. We practice physically maybe five or six days a week, so why not practice mentally?
  • See tasks as challenges rather than obstacles. This enables you to work harder and persist longer at achieving them.
  • Take time out to focus on your thoughts and identify what works best for you and why, whether it's at home, in the bath or before you go to sleep at night.
  • Don't waste energy on worrying about negative thoughts. You may have concerns about performing, this just shows you that the event is important to you. Think about the thoughts that are relevant to the task, remain focused on the job at hand.

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