For Brendan O’Sullivan, rugby is all in his head.
The star at Marshall McLuhan Catholic Secondary School and the 2007 Town Crier Central Region Athlete of the Year says he envisions the outcome of his games right before he plays them.
"I visualize my job," says the fly half, who does the kicking for his team. "It’s taken me awhile to get used to the position because there’s a bunch of pressure involved.
"You try your best not to miss your kicks. I had to develop this thing where I had to visualize the kick going in – say a few mental positive things before I kick – and it seems to help."
O’Sullivan, a grade 12 honours student who will be attending McGill University in the fall, has been playing rugby along with basketball and badminton since grade nine. Of the three sports, rugby is his favourite.
"I like that it combines aspects of different sports that I play," he said in a recent interview at the school. "It has a physical, intense tackling side of it, but also there’s a lot of skill involved – and I used to play soccer pretty seriously.
"I get to kick in rugby, and that’s kind of a treat because it’s a mix of the sports."
While he pictures what his matches will be like, he also understands on the field you can’t get caught with you head down.
"You just gotta keep your head up," O’Sullivan said. "If you run with your eyes looking to the ground, you’ll get smoked. You also have to keep your head up even in terms of the score not being in your favour."
O’Sullivan’s mental preparation also involves trying to calm himself down during big matches. He says he usually doesn’t get butterflies during regular season games but does in the playoffs because the contests mean that much more.
"I just try to tell myself the nervousness isn’t anything bad. It just shows that I’m thinking a lot about the game. I just try to channel that in a positive way and visualize what I have to do."
Marshall McLuhan won the TDCAA city championship for senior boys’ rugby in late May, a feat where O’Sullivan says one of his toughest challenges in the sport awaited him: a narrow 25-24 win over Senator O’Connor Blues in the city final.
The Blues were undefeated in the regular season and finished ahead of McLuhan in the standings, and thus came in heavily favoured.
"It was a really close game," O’Sullivan says. "There were eight lead changes – it was intense."
He says his biggest challenge was the opposing fly half, Brendan Douros, a member of Team Ontario and whom O’Sullivan describes as "an incredibly skilled player."
"He runs, he kicks, he’s just a menace on the field," O’Sullivan said. "That was my biggest challenge, probably in all four years of rugby, because I had to match up to him and take him down."
O’Sullivan says one thing that helped his team was camaraderie.
"We were friends off the field as much as we were on the field," he said. "That makes supporting a guy and tackling for him, or taking a tackle, that much easier."
And, he says, you "gotta give ‘er" because you can’t really slow down in rugby.
"If you do," he says, "the other team can just take you out, like that."
About this article: