The All Blacks are renowned for their flamboyant play, but above all their mental strength and determination, which they draw from their culture and traditions. Maori culture is now well known and the customs inherited by the All Blacks, New Zealand’s rugby players, are admired and even imitated. First of all, everyone thinks of the Haka, this war dance performed in the center of the field, facing the opponents, before each match. But another tradition, much less known, allows New Zealand players to find the mental resources to beat anyone.
Being selected for the national team is a privilege like no other in New Zealand. And certain rites of passage are obligatory to integrate an institution with such a rich history. First, a Haka to welcome the newcomers, then a meeting for everyone to introduce themselves. Young people are always welcomed, advised and integrated by managers and experienced players in the locker room. Habits that we will find in many other teams. However, one particularity changes the situation: a mysterious and personalized object is also given to each new All Black.
Thus, in an interview with the BBC, former All Blacks player Richard Kahui explains: “There are certain things that only the All Blacks receive – one of them is a black book which contains all the information that you heard about at the meeting. But there are also all these blank pages. You have to keep a diary of your time as an All Black.” This book, a sort of personal diary of the Blacks, was introduced for the first time after the 2003 World Cup, in particular thanks to the help of mental trainer Gilbert Enoka.
The first pages, partly repeating what was said during the inaugural meeting, are information about the heritage of the All Blacks, the culture of the selection and its sporting successes. Then, the blank pages are free and everyone can use them as they wish: to keep memories, write down moods… Richard Kahui says: “Conrad Smith (another former All Blacks player) gave me his book after the meeting to look at. It had the date and the teams he played, how he felt, what it meant. It was really amazing to look inside his book and into his mind.”
Kahui explains how he himself used his book: “I started writing notes on each match. I think you realize that playing just one ‘Test’ is special, so you want to be sure ‘play 10 or 20. (…) I wrote things that I cherished during the matches. And he adds: “You didn’t have to write there, you could draw there and whatever you wanted.” It is perhaps also from this little black book that the All Blacks draw their mental strength.