This month, we chat with Red2Blue coach Jo Mountford, the founder and director of ‘Beet it with Jo’. In addition to being a coach, Jo is a qualified therapist and yoga teacher. She provides tools to help her clients achieve optimal performance in whatever they do. Here, she tells us why Red2Blue plays an important part in that toolkit.
The roots of ‘Beet it with Jo’ were planted early on in Jo’s career. Working with a number of clients who were overeaters, Jo became interested in nutrition and its connection with mental health. On a macro level, ‘Beet it with Jo’ refers to the performance aspect of her business, but taken literally, beets are one of Superfoods she recommends. A qualified Gallup StrengthsFinder coach, Jo’s holistic approach also includes using a psychometric test to help her clients understand how they can perform in their area of expertise.
Red2Blue – the missing link
It was while working with Africa’s leading golf tour for professional women golfers – the Sunshine Ladies – Jo began to realise that something was missing. “I was using a holistic approach to managing anxiety with them, including breathing techniques and yoga, but there was something that I didn’t have to help them perform under pressure – to perform in the moment.”
As luck would have it, shortly afterwards Jo met mountaineer, Red2Blue ambassador and motivational speaker Adriana Brownlee at a conference. “I made it my goal to ask her, ‘How do you manage your mental state? How do you manage the big moments; the scary moments?’” Adri talked about how she uses the Red2Blue techniques to perform under pressure. Jo felt that it was the very tool she needed to add to her own toolbox. Becoming a Red2Blue coach earlier this year allowed her to complete the missing link.
In addition to her professional golfer clients, Jo has been using Red2Blue to help an aspiring 17-year-old springboard diver, ‘Zee’, to prepare for the World Aquatics Championships in Japan.
Zoom out, get perspective, Zoom back in
Zee came up against a tricky situation during national championships last year. As she was about to compete in the final, an argument broke out between her own coach and another coach who was trying to get Zee disqualified. She phoned Jo from the poolside in tears.
“Having used the Red2Blue techniques. I was able to say: ‘Go through your Control Circles. What can’t you control? You can’t control how the adults behave or what they say. But what you can control is your breathing. You can go back to the rituals that we’ve been through to get you back on task,’ Jo explained.
“We zoomed out, got perspective and were able to zoom back in, and Zee then went on to win the competition. It was a fantastic technique that we’d worked on together and that she could then apply right there in the moment.”
Jo has used the Red2Blue technique with Julia Vincent, a South African diver called who qualified for the Olympics at the World Championships in Japan this year.
Fear of failure – the limiting mindset
Having worked with many naturally talented athletes across a whole range of sports, Jo finds that a fear of failure is often the limiting factor that prevents them from taking it to the next level. “One of the professional golfers I work with was leading on the first two days of a tournament recently. On the last day, she said she felt like the other people were better or more deserving than her. That’s the limiting mindset. I believe mindset either makes or breaks that next step. It either helps or hinders you.”
Jo impresses upon her players how important it is to train their mindset, just like they train their golf swing, or their dive. “You’ve got to train your mindset because that’s the thing that changes. You’ve trained your putt over and over again – it’s perfect. What changes? Your mindset. Mindset is the difference between the people who take it to the next level and those that don’t.”
Train your mindset from an early age
Jo believes the younger people start to do this, the better. She sees Red2Blue as a fantastic tool for young sportspeople juggling exams and social pressures along with their training.
“Elite sports people often don’t develop in the same way socially as those around them. With that comes other pressures – they may feel excluded; they could feel pressured to drink or vape,” she says. “Red2Blue can keep them on task and focused. It provides them with simple tools to manage those pressurised, disruptive situations better. I really think schools should implement it. It’s a fantastic language for teams to be able to communicate effectively.”
It’s the simplicity of Red2Blue that Jo believes makes it so effective. “It’s so simple. I’ve sent the aquatics diving team mantra bracelets with a little red bead, a white bead and a blue bead so that when they’re saying their rituals, they are aware of Red2Blue,” says Jo. She’s even trained one of her golfers’ caddies in Red2Blue. “I’ve sent him the Control Circles and the map, and I’ve asked him to laminate them and attach them to the bag so he can help her when she’s losing it and say, ‘You’re in the Red’ to bring her back.”
Give time time
When it comes to good advice, one of Jo’s favourite sayings is “Give time time,” meaning when things are difficult, just sit with it. That advice was invaluable to her when Jo went through a divorce with two very young children to look after. “So many of us want to shift the feelings quickly, but if we can just experience the feelings, then they’re not going to catch us up at a later stage. If you’ve been through a trauma, you need to experience those feelings for them to work their course, not try to numb them, but that takes patience,” she says.
Another piece of advice that Jo finds herself giving out frequently is to be mindful. “When we’re bumbling along clueless and overwhelmed, we don’t have choice. But when I say, ‘Be mindful’ – you have a choice. People tend to like that because it gives them a sense of power and of being in control. And when you know what you can control, you’ve got the choice of where you want your attention to go and what your next step is.”