This case study focused on pressure, stereotype threat, choking, and the coping experiences of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team during the period from 2004-2011 leading into their success at the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC). Employing a narrative approach this case study examined public expectation, pressure, and coach-led coping strategies designed to “avoid the choke” by the All Blacks team. An in-depth interview was completed with one of the All Blacks’ coaches and analyzed via collaborative thematic analysis (Riessman, 2008). In addition multiple secondary data sources (e.g., coach & player autobiographies; media interviews) were analyzed via holistic-content analysis (Lieblich et al., 1998). Collectively these analyses revealed five key themes: public expectation and pressure, learning from 2007 RWC, coping with RWC pressure, decision-making under pressure, and avoiding the choke. Practical recommendations are offered for team sport coaches with respect to coping with pressure and avoiding choking.
Hodge is with the School of Physical Education, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Smith was an All Blacks Coach (2004-2011), New Zealand Rugby Union, New Zealand.