Bulls

Dolphins helping Bulls with behaviour

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The dolphins at Port Elizabeth’s Bayworld oceanarium, Domino and Dumisa, are currently assisting Vodacom Bulls kicking coach Vlok Cilliers to fine tune his coaching skills.


Cilliers approached Bayworld for assistance some time ago after receiving tips from Dave Alred who was the kicking coach of a number of elite sportsmen including Jonny Wilkinson in the 2003 Rugby world cup.


Cilliers’ main aim is to observe the positive reinforcement training techniques used by the animal curators at Bayworld, and he hopes to take back some new ideas to incorporate in his coaching style.


Alred has recently worked with dolphins in Australia, helping him to explore his premise that skills and behaviors are in fact one of the same thing.


When you treat a skill as a behaviour, then there is a greater likelihood that the individual will consistently perform at a high level.


Through studying dolphins, Alred has been able to investigate how vital it is to behave and respond to performance in a constant and objective manner.


“The most fundamental change over the last two years has been looking at mental preparation; trying to ensure players always perform at or very near their potential, whatever the interference,” said Alred, who is taking a PhD in performing under pressure at Loughborough University on the Bulls website.


“If there’s anything I can do to get a player to go where he’s never been before, in terms of the level of his performance, that’s my job.”


Dave has a wealth of knowledge to impart on performance under pressure, both in the sporting arena but also its application in the corporate world.


Alred’s increased input may help explain why England now revel in pressure situations. Players are given individually tailored trigger words to aid a calm response to pressure situations and are encouraged to use these with a partner when the pressure rise in a game.


Alred spends an average of seven hours in Test weeks specifically working with England’s kickers and believes that “when the bullets start flying it’s useful to have someone alongside you who can prompt you.”


He famously told Jonny Wilkinson to “Forget the posts – let’s aim for something else.


“Imagine there’s a woman sitting in that seat, 20 rows behind her name was Doris.” After he had mastered focusing on her Alred is rumoured to have told Wilkinson to focus on the ice cream she was eating and to aim for that.

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