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Talking Rugby

Thoughts on the Game
A compendium of insights, analysis and random thoughts about the world's greatest team sport

The following is reproduced, with permission.

Self Confidence
by Bud Bilanich

Today is Monday, so this post is on self confidence.

I’m a rugby player, retired, but still a player at heart. The USA Club Championships were contested in Denver over the weekend (May 31st). Way back in the 1980s, I played olde boys rugby for the New York Athletic Club. We were a group of guys in our 30s and 40s.  We had a lot of fun, and we more than held our own against similar competition.

Today’s NYAC players are simply amazing, though. Under the direction of Head Coach Mike Tolkin, the NYAC won the USA Super League championship in 2005. On Saturday May 31st, they played the defending champs, Belmont Shore. Several of my friends flew in from New York to watch the match. 

Our lads didn’t disappoint. They won a hard, physical match 31 – 28. The match was tied at 25 at the end of regulation play (80 minutes); tied at 28 after two 10 minute overtime periods. The NYAC scored on a penalty goal after about seven minutes of sudden death overtime. To win, it took over 100 minutes of hard, physical rugby.

I bring this up to illustrate a point about self confidence. The NYAC was winning 25 – 11 with about eight minutes left in regulation play. A lesser side than Belmont Shore would have conceded and just played out the last few minutes of the match. Instead, their pride and their confidence in their ability allowed them to mount a furious comeback and tie the match as time expired.

I asked my friends from New York, who have watched the NYAC boys play all season, how they thought the NYAC players would react to this rather devastating development. The consensus was, “They are mentally tough, but this is a difficult situation and a championship game, so who knows.”

Belmont Shore scored first in the overtime. The NYAC tied the match with about two minutes to play in the second overtime. That answered my question about their mental, not to mention physical, toughness. They dominated the sudden death overtime, playing in the Belmont Shore end almost the entire time until they were awarded the penalty and converted the kick that won the match.
While I know it is a cliché to say that the match was so well played and intensely contested that no side deserved to lose, it is true in this case. While I was ecstatic that the NYAC won the match, I could not help but feeling sorry for the Belmont Shore boys. I had a chance to speak with a few of them after the match. Their disappointment and fatigue was clearly evident.

On the other hand, as I watched the NYAC lads cavort with their individual medals around their necks and the USA trophy held high above their heads, I was struck by how easy it would have been for them to quit. And by the fact that they simply refused to lose this match.

After the match, I asked a couple of them where they found the will to go on after their opponent dominated the last eight minutes of regulation play and the beginning of overtime. To a man, they said that they believed in themselves and their team. They were confident that they could take whatever Belmont Shore threw at them and triumph in the end.

As The Optimist Creed says, on Saturday, May 31st, 2008, the New York Athletic Club rugby side was “so strong that nothing could disturb their peace of mind.” They also were able to “forget the mistakes of the past – the end of the match and beginning of overtime – and press on to the greater achievements of the future.”

I was proud of them for the manner in which they conducted themselves in over 100 minutes of hard, physical play and for their graciousness to their very deserving opponents after the match.

The common sense point here is simple. As you go through life, no matter how hard to prepare, work and compete, life will throw some setbacks your way. Successful people call upon their reservoir of self confidence to help them overcome these setbacks. Last Saturday, 20 young men from the New York Athletic Club rugby club dug very deep into their reservoir of self confidence to not only win a rugby match, but to become national champions.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense and to subscribe to my weekly newsletter “Common Sense.” 

I’ll see you around the web and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

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