Emily Scarratt is perhaps best known as the player who secured England’s 2014 Women’s World Cup triumph with six minutes left in the game. Emily joined Loughborough Lightning in 2019 and was awarded a full-time England contract. She was named World Rugby’s Women’s Player of the Year in November 2019 and became the highest ever Red Roses points scorer in the 2020 Six Nations. Here, Emily talks to us about how Red2Blue has helped her through some challenging moments, including the major injury that kept her off the pitch for months.
Emily’s interest in rugby began when she was watching from the side-lines as a child while her dad and older brother played at their local rugby club. When one of the coaches invited her to have a go, she began “charging around, absolutely loved it, and wanted to go back for more.” Soon her mum and dad were taking her to play in tournaments every weekend!
Accessing R2B in the moment
Throughout her career, Emily has experienced many different types of mental skills training. When she discovered Red2Blue, what appealed to her was having everything she needed in one place. The simplicity of the one-page map brought it all together and made it easier to use in the moment.
Emily has worked with various practitioners over the years, but the team psychologists tended to focus on things that were dependent on what was going on at the time. “There’s never really been a framework to come back to,” she says. “That’s what Red2Blue gives you. It’s simple – that’s why you remember it and can draw upon it in those pressure moments.”
Last year, Emily experienced a major injury – a compound fracture and dislocation of her left ankle that required multiple surgeries and took her out of the game during a key time for the team. She’d had a few injuries throughout her career but this one was different. Emily had no idea how long it would take to heal and there was the potential that she may never come back from it.
Flip your mindset
Realising she wasn’t going to be able to use her lower limbs for a while, Emily’s pragmatic approach was to “flip her mindset” and focus on what she could still achieve. “As soon as I was out of my cast and had my stitches out, I wanted to get in the pool and do some form of exercise to help me keep fit – not necessarily fit to play rugby, but I needed to be healthy and feel good from a wellbeing point of view,” she says.
Being used to a team environment, Emily found the injury quite isolating. To combat this, she worked on off-field activities, picking up some coaching so that she was still around the team. The injury meant that she missed the Autumn Internationals with her team playing New Zealand in two tests for the first time. The Red Roses beat New Zealand by some of the biggest winning margins they’d ever experienced – and they were breaking crowd records too. “That’s always something you want to be a part of,” said Emily, “but physically, I wasn’t able to, so I had to park it.”
Focus on what you can control
It was during this period that she found herself using the Red2Blue Control Circles. Acknowledging that this was out of her control, she instead decided to instead focus on what she could control. Emily was able to pick up some media opportunities, including commentating, which helped her to stay involved and connected to the team. “I was able to add value, even though I wasn’t able to do the bit I really wanted to do,” she says.
Another huge challenge for Emily was the World Cup Final against New Zealand last year. The Red Roses were well prepared and played an amazing match, but sadly, after a hard-fought game, it was their rivals the Black Ferns who took home the cup. Rather than looking at that match in isolation, Emily reflects on what went into the whole campaign – from the preseason preparation to the warmup games; from being away for the match and then coming home and dealing with what happened.
Again, this is where her Red2Blue training proved invaluable: “Consistently understanding what it is that you can have an impact on throughout all of that is key,” she says. “In preseason, for example, when you’re just running and it feels like it’s running for the sake of it, it’s important to remember what you’re aiming for.”
Where your focus goes, your energy follows
In the middle of a tournament where she or the team haven’t had a good game, or certain things that she wanted to focus on haven’t gone well, Emily goes back to Red2Blue to help her refocus. “What’s really helped me is the piece around ‘where your focus goes, your energy follows’, so if when I’m on the pitch I’ve dropped a ball, what am I thinking about?”
Emily knows that if she’s still thinking about that dropped ball rather than what she should be doing next, that’s where her energy is – and that’s not useful to her. Red2Blue training has helped her to redirect that energy to get back on task and make an impact during the next part of the match. “That’s something that’s really helped me on pitch. It’s been a quite immediate trigger – I use a deep breath to try and refocus if something’s changed or if I feel like I need to get back on track.”
Coming home from last year’s final was difficult because the Red Roses didn’t get the result they wanted, but Emily is confident they did everything they possibly could. Rather than looking back and having regret about what they could have or should have done, Emily is philosophical:
“When I reflect back, I know that we genuinely did everything we could. It’s always hard knowing that one moment or two moments in a game could have completely changed the whole thing. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted but we couldn’t have done any more than we did.”
Reflect, acknowledge, move forward
As an Advanced Red2Blue coach herself, one of the most useful tools that Emily brings to the team is the ability to help her teammates understand how they feel about certain things, and how they can learn from that, rather than just accepting a result or an outcome. “Sometimes it’s very black and white and we don’t always acknowledge how a situation made us feel or what our reaction to that may or may not have been. Once you’ve acknowledged something, you’re able to move forward in a more positive way.”
When asked about the best advice she’s been given throughout her career, Emily says it relates back to not having ‘what ifs’. “If you know you’ve done everything that you possibly can, it doesn’t make the result and the outcome easier to take, but at least you can live without the what ifs – ‘If only I’d have done that extra…’ That’s something that sticks with me because there have been tournaments or games in the past where I’ve reflected and gone, actually, I could have done more. That’s something I’ve had to learn along the way.”
Give yourself a break
As for the advice that Emily passes on to the people she coaches: “You have to enjoy what you do,” she says. ‘The young girls I come across, especially, are really tough on themselves. You’ve got to be kind and you’ve got to give yourself a break sometimes.” Emily is quick to point out that professional rugby players and players that have been playing for England for a long time still make mistakes. “Even they have bad games – nobody’s perfect. It’s a shame to see youngsters getting tough on themselves when that should be the age of expression and freedom, just going and doing it. But obviously that’s easier said than done.”
Emily, who became professional in 2014, is very positive about the future of women’s rugby.
The game has grown over the last few years and has a “mini boom” around the World Cup cycles, and Emily believes it’s important to keep that momentum going. “The biggest growth area at the moment in rugby is women’s rugby, both in terms of the numbers and also the potential,” she says.
She references the new Premiership league that will happen next year, the association with the men’s teams, and the record-breaking figures that the England team achieve whenever they play at home, which are likely to continue with the upcoming Six Nations.
While Emily acknowledges that there are some challenges in rugby overall, she says the women’s game is pushing on, and the home World Cup in 2025 will be a great event for the country to get behind.
The Six Nations, which starts later this month, is the next challenge for the team, but in terms of personal achievements, Emily says it’s time for some reflection. “When you come back from something as big as a World Cup, you have to take time to reflect and figure out where you are on your rugby journey,” she says.
Slightly older than some of the girls in the team and with a three-year cycle to the next World Cup, Emily is figuring out if she wants to be a part of it, if she’s able to be. In the meantime, “I just enjoy being back around the girls at club, back in that environment,” she says. “I’m not putting too much pressure on anything, because I think sometimes that’s where you get the best results.” It’s an approach that certainly seems to have worked for Emily so far. Whatever comes next, we know Emily will continue to achieve great success!