In the midst of Ireland’s Grand Slam winning Six Nations campaign, Johnny Sexton sat down to discuss the habits and mindset of an elite athlete on the FFS podcast in partnership with Pundit Arena.
After Ireland emphatically claimed what was just the third Grand Slam in the nation’s history last weekend, one would forgive Johnny Sexton for giving himself an old-fashioned pat on the back.
However, speaking on the FFS podcast, Sexton gave an extraordinary insight into the workings of an obsessive mind with the Leinster and Ireland out-half detailing how difficult he finds it to cope with a poor day from the kicking tee.
Specifically addressing Ireland’s ten-point victory over Wales – a game that saw Sexton kicking poorly but performing excellently in his all-around game – the 32-year-old was phenomenally honest in admitting how much he struggles after a below-par kicking display.
‘The margins when it comes to kicking are, they’re so small. Like I said one little mistake on one kick and another and suddenly, you’ve missed a couple and then (against Wales) I had two more from the touchline where I actually hit them pretty well, both times hit them, and I said ‘they’re going over’ and then just at the death they just died off.
So, look it leads to a few sleepless nights, you know, demons in your head. You’ve got to somehow distract them and get rid of them pretty quick…’
Although the Leinsterman is widely regarded as one of the best out-halves in world rugby, Sexton admitted that he has struggled to mentally accept a poor kicking display throughout his career, while acknowledging that his overly harsh analysis of his own performances is probably both his best and worst trait.
‘I can look at others and say ‘oh they had a bad day’ but when I have a bad day, I can never just say ‘oh I had a bad day’. It will literally fester and burn me up inside for ages. It’s probably my worst trait and probably a good trait as well that I never get too far ahead of myself…’
‘I think I’m definitely better moving on in a game (with a missed kick) but I’m still not as good after the game. You know, I need to learn how to just debrief with someone and I still haven’t found the right person to be able to sit down with and go through everything…’
Although Sexton accepted that he is able to cope with the mental noise midgame, it is at night-time when the perfectionist in him really starts to pipe up.
During the game, I’m in the moment, I can move on, I can deal with it. But it’s after the game it will fester in me for a couple of days, a few days. You know especially at night time when you’re trying to go to sleep and it gives your mind a chance to really go at you…
I wish I didn’t take things as seriously as I do, which sounds strange, but it’s kind of what got me to where I am.
Johnny Sexton was speaking on the FFS podcast powered by Pundit Arena and you can skip to the 30:00 mark in the podcast below to hear Grand Slam-winning out-half discussing all of the above.