Meet Mel Berry....
Tell me a bit about your playing history?
93 Senior Caps for my country (not including 7’s and U18’s Caps) 68 of those as Captain. Had my first senior cap at 16. Was also captaining the U18’s team at this stage. Captained the Senior team at the age of 19. Kind of thrown in as the Captain at the time got injured so I went into my first World Cup as Captain and 19years old! I've played and captained in 2 world cups. Led Wales to the most successful season winning the Triple Crown, which of course means beating the current world champions England. I've been fortunate that im probably one of the very few individuals that have beaten England in all levels and variations of the game; 7’s to win the European Championship, U18 level and at Senior Level. I have been fortunate to have played in a number of big premier clubs in the UK and New Zealand, and have captained them all. Wasps we won the Treble following the World Cup. League, Cup and 7’s. Being made captain of Ponsonby in New Zealand for the one season I played over there was such an honour. I was also selected to play against Samoa for the Maori Select team!
Throughout my career, as with many sports you have highs and low, I've captained Wales at their top and I've also captained them when we have been through tough times. I've had injuries but have seen that as part of the game. I chose to study, and work full time whilst playing Premier Rugby and for my country, and with very little if not any financial support (oh how times have changed!) But would I change anything? Not a chance, I've had the privilege and honour to have played with, and against many unbelievable players across the world, I've led my country and come away with memories that only that group with have shared, and I have friends for life across the globe (not that we are that friendly on the pitch!)
What qualities do you have that made you a good captain?
An understanding of people: how to get the best out of different individuals and understanding that what, and how to motivate people is different and can be very individual. If you take the time to understand the people it gives you a great advantage of knowing how they operate and how you can support them in situations on and off the field.
The ability to get a group of individuals many from different, varying backgrounds and cultures to come together and work towards a common goal. As a captain you want to give the players around you the belief in the vision and goals set and support them in following that vision. When times are tough (and I've been through a few internationally!) it is also about having the ability to bring players together, galvanise them, and continually give them belief in their ability as well as that of the team.
Being a role model for the team is fundamental and showing by doing not simply in what you say. You demonstrate your work ethic, your effort, your drive to strive for improvement as well has being able to make key decisions at vital times. I am not adverse to taking a few risks should we say in my playing days. Most would come off, but I've had a few where they haven’t! But I have always believed in providing an environment which endorses trying new things, being creative and that mistakes will happen, its how you react to the mistakes that count. But by doing that I think it creates at environment where people aren’t scared to try things and know they will be supported, and take away some learning at the same time! i.e. hmm maybe that wasn’t the right time to try!
How important do you think mind set is?
Mindset is crucial. Your mind is very powerful.
It can control your thoughts, Mit can control your perception and your thoughts and perceptions can control your actions. However, YOU control your mind. I believe a key strength of mine is my mind set.
And what is your knowledge and perspective of importance of performance psychology?
I believe there is a place for it. People spend hours on their technical, physiological and tactical elements of their performance but my belief is that you can have all those, however if you do not have the correct mind set you will struggle to be the best that you can be. Have I ever used or needed a sport psychologist? No. But that is because I have developed a strong mind set, have a very good understanding of myself, and have a bank of strategies stored for anytime I need them.
However, there are so many athletes that perhaps do not understand how powerful mind set can be, do not have experience or expertise to understand how their mind set and thoughts can impact their actions, particularly if it is a negative thoughts; And more significantly don’t have a bank of strategies or tools that they can draw on to help them. A performance psychologist can be that person who can provide direction to those athletes, provide them with understanding of mind and how they work, and provide them with the tools to support a positive mind set. But I am a strong believer that a good performance psychologist is someone who can always be called upon by an athlete after working with them but there is not a reliance on them 24/7.
Tune in for Part Two next week....
"Being a role model for the team is fundamental and showing by doing"