Mind Games: How brain profiling could be Indian rugby's best move

ESPN Scrum 30 Apr 2019 09:36
Naas Botha with members of the Indian women's rugby squad. Susan Ninan
Apr 30, 2019

Naas Botha is certain he'd have little trouble picking between his best kickers in the side.

It's not the recently-appointed head coach of the Indian rugby teams talking smug. With a double tap on the table we're seated at in the KIIT hostel in Bhubaneswar, the former Springbok legend tells us it's faith in the science of genetic brain profiling. It's the reason he doesn't imagine himself facing the usual coach conundrums. Beyond rugby, this deep-dive into how the mind is structured fascinates him.

"If you know how each player in your team is made up," Botha explains, "which position on the field suits their dominant functionalities, whether they thrive under pressure or implode or whether they like being spoken to or left alone, it makes it easier for you to get the best results out of them."

Before the sub-continent coach job happened, the mission of taking this message to untapped territories turned Botha into a willing ambassador, bringing him to India two years ago. Today, schools, corporate organisations and athletes form Edu-Profile's clientele with assessments beginning as early as age three.

With 18 wickets from six matches, Parnell went on to finish at the top of the bowlers heap at that World Cup and batting twice at number six, and at three occasions on number seven, he stacked 134 runs in five innings, the fourth-highest for South Africa. Less than a year later, Parnell made his ODI debut against Australia in January 2009.

The basic idea is to comprehend how the body can react under adverse or stressful scenarios and how involuntary reactions of non-dominant parts can be minimised. "So someone with a left ear and left eye will probably have a terrible game if his wife's glum face in the crowd was last thing he sees before running into the field. A left-ear person, we call them "Mother Teresa ears," is sensitive to how people sound. I often give them earplugs before get on the field so they can't hear what the crowd is screaming. Negative verbal feedback can rattle them. So it's very important for coaches to know who the left-ear players on the team are because they can be very sensitive to how you speak to them," Lotter adds.

It's why Botha plans to get all players on the Indian rugby teams profiled following the Asian Championships in June. He vouches that he's found results in doing so within his own family. "Both my girls play field hockey and earlier I'd be standing by the field and yelling if they botched up a pass or dribble. Now that I have them profiled, I know what doesn't work. I just make eye contact or maybe throw a short whistle and they know what I mean."

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Dr Annette LotterBothaNaas BothaWayne Parnellcricket
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