Coach’s Corner: Gerry Fitzpatrick

This month, we find out how Gerry Fitzpatrick uses Red2Blue in his coaching. Gerry co-founded Impact The Game, along with Jenny Coady, to help people to unlock their potential and take their performance to a new level through mental skills. Their clients include Kilkenny Senior hurling team and West Ham United.

Gerry is a university lecturer specialising in Sports Psychology and Sports Science. After completing his post-graduate degrees in sports psychology, he turned to basketball, coaching the national team in Ireland for almost 11 years. Sports psychology became a key element of his coaching technique.

Coaching resources at your fingertips

The idea for Impact The Game came about during Covid when Gerry could no longer have face-to-face sessions with his athletes. As a qualified Red2Blue coach, Gerry was using the technique with his teams and wanted to continue the work he was doing during lockdown.

His colleague Jenny Coady, Head of Performance and Wellbeing at West Ham, was encountering similar issues and the two of them realised there was a drastic need for online coaching resources. Impact The Game was created to make educational resources available to coaches on their laptop or phone.

After positive feedback from coaches, they began to offer resources for athletes too, with a focus on mental skills training. One of the problems Gerry encountered was that although athletes engaged in sports psychology and worked on their mental training during the week, it was often forgotten when they got to a competition.

“Sometimes they need access on-site too, be it motivational material or techniques or strategies, like Red2Blue,” Gerry says. “We make that available in a format where they can literally open their phone and quickly flick through to find what they need as a reminder or trigger in that moment.”

Discovering Red2Blue

Coming from an academic, evidence-based, sports psychology background, Gerry had been interested in finding an easier way to deliver mental skills preparation to athletes and coaches throughout his coaching career. He studied the coaches he really admired – people like Hubie Brown in basketball and Brian Ashton in rugby – and felt like they had an insight he was missing.

“Along the way, Red2Blue started to pop up. A friend who I worked with on the national team had taken the Red2Blue accreditation and I felt I had to check it out. My radar had been piqued for a long time. I knew there had to be a better way of delivering mental skills training than the methodical, science-y, robotic way that it often gets delivered.”

Since then, Gerry’s been a R2B convert. He uses it both in his day-to-day life and in his coaching. Having practiced meditation, Gerry was aware of the importance of managing your thoughts and feelings, but he found Red2Blue simplified this.

The lightbulb moment

“I always had this feeling that we needed to tap into the practice-based evidence,” he says. The lightbulb moment came about five slides into his Red2Blue training. “I jotted down a note that said: ‘That’s it!’ This is a framework that I can hang so much stuff on that makes it more applied, more practical, more real.”

Instead of waiting for the results of evidence-based material that wasn’t moving fast enough to help his athletes when they needed it, Gerry saw that Red2blue could make an immediate difference. “For me, that’s what Red2Blue did in just that moment. I said, that’s it. This is going to work. This is going to solve an awful lot of issues, an awful lot of problems. And it has.”

According to Gerry, Red2Blue has made a “phenomenal” difference for the athletes he’s worked with in terms of the engagement, the value to the athlete, and indeed the success they’ve had compared to the previous approach. He’s a firm believer that Red2Blue not only benefits the individual athlete, but the whole team. He’s found the number of people on a team who quickly buy into the Red2Blue concept is much higher because of the simplicity of the concept.

Improving team communication

The individual work comes when players with different personalities, different hype levels and different communication skills need to find their own awareness of their triggers, and the strategies required to get them from Red to Blue.  

Gerry describes Red2Blue as a kind of team identity. Players recognise when other players on the field have gone into the Red, and he teaches them to develop awareness of each other’s triggers and each other’s strategies. This increases the level of communication between players during competition as they help each other to transition from Red to Blue.

“In sports like football, rugby, basketball, hurling, Gaelic football, hockey, generally speaking, there are only two real team skills – passing and communication,” Gerry said. “And communication can be a hard skill to learn. But Red2Blue has been a good framework for that, because now they have something positive and useful to communicate to each other when they’re under pressure.”

Hold your nerve!

Gerry says the best piece of advice he’s ever been given is “Hold your nerve”. It’s advice he now passes on to the players he coaches, and says it’s particularly applicable to Red2Blue. Gerry has had great success with his teams, including the Kilkenny Senior hurling team, the Camogie team, and the Under 20s hurling team in Ireland. All three made the national championship final this year and two out of the three won it. In fact, the Camogie team, who have been on the Red2Blue programme for three years, have won the last three national championships.

“If you’ve trained, if you understand it, if you’ve worked on the strategies, if you’re aware of your triggers, if you know your self-awareness and understanding has improved, all you’ve really got to do is hold your nerve. This is a term I use with Red2Blue – we’ve trained it, now trust it,” he says.

You can find out more about the work Jerry and Jenny do with Impact the Game here.

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