LONG-serving scrum-half Jonny Arr remembers the days when Worcester Warriors regularly experienced agony rather than ecstasy at the end of matches.
However, thanks to the help of sports psychologist Robbie Anderson, the 26-year-old Arr said his beloved Worcester have been transformed from nearly-men to match-winners.
The Sixways side used to be known for their inability to close out winning positions as they suffered a series of gut-wrenching defeats before being relegated from the Aviva Premiership in 2014.
But as their heroics in the Greene King IPA Championship play-off final and their last-gasp victory over Northampton Saints showed Warriors have the mental strength to come out on top in close contests.
“When looking back to the year we got relegated we were often coming so close to getting victories and we were losing game in the latter stages of games,” Arr said.
“That’s not just tough on the body, but it also eats away at the mind and if you string a few of those together suddenly you can be in a bit of a bad spot.
“But so far this season we have been in completely different situations to that.
“There will potentially be times this year when things get tough, but hopefully we will be tough enough to come through.”
Arr said this change in mentality was down to the arrival of psychologist Anderson, who has been working on a part-time basis at the club since last season.
Anderson is part of the Chimp Management company, which was set up by Prof Dr Steve Peters who has successfully used his model of releasing the ‘inner chimp’ on sports stars, including Andy Murray and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
According to Chimp Management’s website, Anderson is recognised for his ability to help others ‘understand the human mind as a manageable machine’ and Arr said his techniques have had a big impact.
“Robbie works with the team and the players individually as well and it is something we have gained a lot from,” he said.
“It (the mental side) is not something we have placed a huge emphasis on previously, so it has been nice to just think about things a little bit differently and think about rugby not just as a hugely physical sport, but how important it is to mentally be in a good place. I think Robbie has certainly helped everyone with that.”
Arr believed Anderson’s efforts to improve the players’ mental state paid off in the Championship play-off final where they overcame a 14-point deficit against Bristol to secure promotion.
“I think those two games were huge and I think we will look back in the future and that could be where things really kicked off for us,” he said. “Everyone from the outside would have written the boys off when we were two scores down with minutes to play, but they were just unbelievable.
“The boys pulled together under the sticks, they would have said exactly the right things and had the belief there to win it.
“There certainly is a huge belief there and we are in a position now where we are well-quipped to win matches at the death rather than lose them.”