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Jimmy Gopperth and Handling Pressure

Rugby.  Yes I know

A few weekends back, I had the privilege of attending the Wasps – Exeter European Cup quarter-final match.  The Guardian called it the “best game of the season”.  But so what I hear you cry.  Well, in the post-match media scrum (ha ha) some of the smartest things I heard some of the smartest things I have ever heard about preparation and dealing with pressure.

In the last minute of the match, Wasps were one-point behind Exeter with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth about to step up to take a conversion kick that if successful would earn two points and the win.  This being a knock-out tie, it would also mean that Wasps would progress to the semi-final.  Fail, however, and Wasps would be out.  To add to the pressure, the kick was right on the touchline, narrowing the angle to the posts.  The hardest conversion kick there is in other words.

So there is Jimmy Gopperth with the fate of both clubs in his hands, being watched by over 20,000 people.  And he scores.  Right between the middle of the posts.  The Wasp players were celebrating before if had even gone over.

So what was said afterwards?  Well let’s start with Jimmy.

“These are the moments you practice day and night for”.  Wow.  It almost seems as if he enjoyed that moment.  He was ready, well prepped.  And if you watch him before the kick, I am sure he is smiling.

“You have to take every kick as if it is the first of the match”.  Wow again.  It is true that he taken many  kicks that day and had in fact missed two tough chances, both tricky due to angle, distance and windy conditions.

If that is truly how he approached it, he managed to take himself out of the moment that every other player and spectator in the stadium was going through.  An extraordinary feat.

So well done Jimmy and Wasps.  You delivered a sporting movement that I will never forget.  You have also taught me a hell of a lot about preparation handle pressure.