In the eighth episode of Overcome, host Yuri Diogenes talks with a former professional rugby player Roger Wilson. Roger had played 350 games in his 15 years career.
He is now sharing his knowledge as a strength and conditioning coach, teaching rugby and football players how to use rugby tackling technique. Roger is a trainer at Hidden Gym and the founder of Tackle Smart.
Even though Roger was known for his durability and ability to avoid injuries, in a professional sports career, such obstacles are an inevitable part of the game.
In this interview, he shares his experience with injuries and gives more information about his tackle teaching.
Y.D: Was there any injury in particular that was harder to overcome because you had to stop playing for a long time?
R.W: There’s a couple but the worst one was with my hamstring. I tore my hamstring right off the bone at the inserts at the top of the hamstring into the glute. This injury took really long to recover. I couldn’t play for six months.
Y.D: Wow, that’s a long time. Did you have surgery?
R.W: Ironically, it happened at the very last game of the season, before I was moving clubs. So, the doctors said that we could leave it to heal naturally. I let it rest for a couple of months and then I did three or four months of rehab, trying to get the hamstring working again as close to pain free as possible.
Y.D: Was the rehab painful?
R.W: The rehab was tough, as it always was. I’ve had a couple of rehab periods and it’s never easy.
Injuries are so vast and so diverse, they’re not always about muscles and tendons. When playing rugby you don’t have a lot of protection on you, so there are so many things that can go wrong.
Y.D: What impact did the injuries have on you, from the psychological perspective? Did they trigger doubt and fear about your future as an athlete? How did you feel during the rehab process?
R.W: It affects your feeling of belongingness. Having a long-term injury can get you feel removed from the rest of the squad, when playing in a team sport. You end up missing a lot of team meetings and become isolated from the playing members during training sessions. When you are used to being in a team, it can be lonely to do your own training sessions.
Y.D: Today, you have a company and you prepare athletes, to have a better awareness about positioning in tackle and prevent them from getting injured. You train them to become stronger physically, but does the training include mental training as well? Mental toughness is also part of the game, right?
R.W: It’s a bit of a happy medium on that. The main focus is on coaching the tackle technique. Players should be taught to tackle correctly, how to use their shoulders and reduce the chances of getting concussions.
So, a lot of the coaching is technical based, but at the same time we emphasize on physical and mental preparation as well. We try to replicate game scenarios as much as possible. We don’t specifically focus on mental toughness but we can’t avoid it. I believe it just comes with experience.
Y.D: Do you include defense techniques?
R.W: We teach them how to fall properly and how to spread the impact. It’s important not to land on one area of the body on taking all that force at once. We emphasize a lot on this, especially when training kids.
Y.D: Do you do any specific strength training? I’ve seen some images of you doing neck strengthening exercises.
R.W: It’s scientifically proven that if you improve your neck strength, you can reduce concussion rates. The neck muscles and the surrounding muscles kind of act as stabilizers and shock absorbers. We do spend a bit of time doing that.