Adam Ashe on the power of positive thinking

Image: David Gibson / FotosportUK www,

AFTER an injury ravaged couple of seasons, Adam Ashe has set about making up for lost time in impressive style during the opening weeks of the current campaign.

When he runs out for Glasgow Warriors ahead this Friday night’s Scotstoun clash against Munster, he will be making a sixth consecutive start [including two pre-season friendlies] for the club, with the highlight so far almost certainly being a monstrous performance which was crucial to an opening weekend win over Connacht in rain-lashed Galway. He is currently the Guinness PRO14’s joint top tackler for the season.

It is no wonder the dynamic back-rower is feeling pretty good about life at the moment, but what is more interesting is that he believes he was as happy as he has ever been when in the midst of last season’s injury woes.

Speaking on his ‘The New Flow’ pod-cast [co-hosted with former Warriors team-mate Grayson Hart] back in October 2016, Ashe opened up about his journey towards greater self-awareness and discussed the inner-peace he has found as a consequence of being able to put life’s anxieties into perspective.

“I’ve been interested in this industry for probably a year and a half now. I started off by reading some books on the topic of self-growth and self-help, and when I realised that I was into this sort of stuff I recognised that it goes back to when I was about sixteen and started taking rugby seriously, and my coach at that time introduced me to the psychology behind sport,” he explained. “So, from the age of 16 I had been working with the positive thinking and the visualization side of mentality in sports, and that was really good for me because it got me to where I had got to by the age of about 22.”

“But I don’t know if it was great for me in terms of my consistency,” he continued. “Sometimes I would be performing great and other times I would drop off, and for me it was really interesting to see where that was coming from. [And] I realised that the answers were coming from the inside – they weren’t going to come from something I could apply to myself or some sort of technique I could use.”

“For the last year of my life I have been reading and listening and watching a lot of videos on how I can look to the inside for answers. The outside circumstances don’t always make a difference in our lives – it is [about] how we perceive them from the inside.”

Ashe picked up his first cap for Scotland in the summer of 2014 after just two appearances off the bench for the Warriors – representing a grand total of 36 minutes of professional rugby. His meteoric rise up rugby’s greasy pole carried on through the following season, when we earned a further five caps, but neck and shoulder problems took large chunks out of the 2015-16 campaign.

He did come off the bench for the Warriors in their PRO12 play-off semi-final defeat to Connacht at the end of that campaign, only to break his toe. He managed to play through the match but later discovered that reconstructive surgery was required, confining him to several months in rehab. Then, just when his recovery was beginning to gather pace, an old hip injury flared up, which also needed surgery.

“It was a bit of a set-back for me but in that period when I’ve been injured I’ve read and learned a lot about myself and the way we work as humans, so that has been a massive boost. I can safely say that in this period of my life, even though I’m not getting to do the thing I love which is rugby, I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt. I’m in a really good place and it’s pretty cool knowing that,” he said on the pod-cast

Ashe went on to explain that his inspiration was Sydney Banks, a Scots-born adopted son of Canada, who experienced a moment of truth whilst working as a welder in British Columbia.

“Basically, he came up with these three principles of: mind, consciousness and thought. And, for me, learning a lot about that way of experiencing life has really helped,” he said. “Being injured and not being able to do the thing I love: it is really up to me how I perceive that situation. It’s up to me how I experience life when I’m on the sidelines, and that’s brought a massive amount of positivity into my life.”

“You have your tough days and you have your good days, but whenever I start feeling sorry for myself or annoyed about my injury, I bring myself back to the realisation that it is me thinking that in the moment – there is nothing else making that happen and giving me those feelings. As soon as I come to that realisation, I go back to neutral, I go back to feeling good again.”

Ashe stressed that this approach to life is not a reaction to any sort of trauma he has had to overcome. While injuries and drop-offs in form are frustrating, he knows that in the grand scheme of things he has led a pretty charmed existence.

“There’s never been anything that’s been really, really hard for me to get through. I was able to achieve a lot coming out of school, going straight into the Scottish Academy set-up and two years later, at the age of 20, getting my first professional contact and getting capped, so it all happened pretty quickly for me,” he acknowledged.

“But there is always a lot of things – distractions and external influences – that can pull people iaway from what they can do to get the best out of themselves. We all go through these challenges of growing up and making good decisions, and for a few years I wasn’t really living my life – I felt like I was trying to live another life, and that takes a lot of effort. It’s hard trying to live a life when it is not you.”

“And although I loved rugby, in a way I wasn’t bringing the best out of myself, I wasn’t being true to myself. So, reading and learning about how we experience things as humans has been a big part of my growing up, and over the past year that has been a big part of my life outside rugby.

“People can achieve things in life but sometimes they feel differently on the inside to the way they do on the outside. I feel like I have made a transformation and it feels good. I wake up every day and even though I’m injured I’m excited about what I’m doing – I’m excited about getting out there and living.”

As much as Ashe’s sense of equilibrium has helped him shrug off the frustration of being sidelined for extended periods of time, it is clear that it has not drained his competitive desire.

“There is no fitness like playing a game of rugby. You can do as much pre-season as you want but you won’t get that same fitness unless you play rugby. To get that and to play six games and be fit now is great. The body is feeling a bit battered but in a good way – it feels good,” he said, after another successful training session with the Warriors yesterday [Wednesday].

While Ashe’s form has been excellent this season, the general sense is that the Warriors as a collective have failed to hit their straps. Despite this, they have won all three of their PRO14 matches played so far, which makes this Friday’s game a top of the table clash.

The fact that Munster got the better of the Warriors in four out of four meetings last year seasons another shake of spice. Not that such considerations will unduly concern an individual as determinedly comfortable in his own skin.

“I guess I am just going into it like any other game. Munster are a stuffy team, they play hard, they are physical and we know what they bring. I guess you could say they are predictable in how they are going to play but they are a hard team to play against, it will take a massive effort – one to 15 – to turn them over at the weekend,” he shrugs.

“We are playing a different way to last year and, like any team, when you go through that period of transition, it is always going to take time to get things right. I can sense it coming, I really can. We are tweaking bits and bobs in training and I hope we can get a dry day at the weekend and go out to play the way we can,” he adds.

“For me, it seems that one to 15 are all ball players. In the past we maybe had certain players who were playing with the ball and the others were just carrying and what-not. Now everyone is making decisions, everyone is a rugby player. When you get that right it is difficult to play against.”

About David Barnes 3963 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.