Winning the Moment

Paul O'Connell (© Ciarán Bohane CC BY 2.0)
Paul O’Connell (© Ciarán Bohane CC BY 2.0)

In terms of sports, my two main passions are rugby and golf. Before I had children and become a stay-at-home parent, I used to play golf. I never played rugby, but have loved watching it for a long time now. Occasionally, I read biographies about rugby players or golfers that I’ve come to admire. Lately, I’ve been reading Paul O’Connell’s autobiography The Battle. Paul O’Connell was the captain of the Ireland and Munster teams and was one of the outstanding players of his generation.

Reading sports biographies can be a really illuminating experience from a counseling perspective. Reading about how professional athletes work for success and deal with setbacks can bring moments of insight. Paul O’Connell’s autobiography is definitely full of insight! One passage, in particular, caught my attention. He spoke about Joe Schmidt, the coach of the Irish rugby team, making the point that the players should look to win the moment in front of them.

There were Monday or Tuesday nights when I felt I hadn’t trained well earlier in the day and I decided I’d try to win every possible moment from there until the next game. I could start by going to bed early, after a protein snack, with a plan for the following day written out – goals I wanted to achieve in training. In the morning, I’d try to win all the moments in front of my face for the rest of the day – a good breakfast, a review of my plan from the night before, getting to training early with the right gear on, taking notes at the team meeting, being on the training pitch twenty minutes early and doing my own warm-up, and some extras. At the end of training there were still moments to be won. As players we were part of a big team and we had to have respect for everyone in it, so I could help Rala clear stuff from the pitch, and then do some recovery in the pool, watch training back on the laptop, review my own performance and see if I’d done what I said I would. Later on, at home, I could turn off my phone so that I could relax, have a really good meal, then switch off, watch television, allow my body to recover – then write a new plan for the next day.

– Paul O’Connell, The Battle (pp. 323-324). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

I thought that this was an interesting approach to life beyond sport. Seeking to win the moment in front of you seems to be about making an active choice to engage with the challenges or opportunities that we’re confronted with in a given moment, and seeking to be positive in the way that we approach them. It seems to be about being proactive about pursuing our goals. But it also seems to be about not underestimating the value of any given moment as a moment that we can win, as a moment that we can bring positive momentum into our lives.