Erica Parkinson on performing under pressure

This month, we catch up with Red2Blue ambassador, footballer Erica Parkinson, who currently plays for the Portuguese team Leixões, and has also played matches for Benfica, another Portuguese team. Erica was recently invited to attend the trial for the England Under 16 Girls team. Here, she talks with Martin about how Red2Blue has helped her development and enabled her to deal with problems both on and off the pitch.

Give us a brief introduction of who you are and what you do.

My name is Erica Parkinson. I’m a footballer and I’m currently playing for the Portuguese team Leixões, and I’ve also been invited to play some games for a Portuguese team called Benfica. I’ve been working with Martin and Red2Blue for two to three years and it’s been extremely helpful to my development. Red2Blue is a great tactic and resource to have – it’s benefited me when dealing with problems both on and off the pitch.

How do you cope with performing under pressure?

I think pressure is a very big part of any sport — in my case football. It defines how you perform, and if you don’t learn how to deal with pressure in these situations, it only gets worse as you get older. You have to deal with scrutiny from your coaches, from fans, from social media. Coping with pressure — and what others think of you — is a very important part of your mindset, and it’s essential to have tactics to deal with that. It influences how you perform in your games.

How does mindset training fit into your overall training along with technical development as a footballer, tactical game understanding, or physical development?

Mindset is just as important as, or even more important than your physical, technical and tactical attributes because they’re all connected. Your mental state, and how you react to situations you’re in, influences your physical state and then how you deal with things, tactically and technically. If you’re in a really good mindset and you know how to deal with mental situations you face on the pitch, that’s going to enhance the physical aspects of your sport overall.

You’ve just had an unbelievable tournament for Benfica. How did you apply Red2Blue to help you during that experience?

Yes, we won the tournament with Benfica and I thought I did very well. I managed to implement a lot of these techniques to help me out. One of the problems I was facing was that it was a team I wasn’t as familiar with. I felt some scrutiny from the coach because I’m going into this situation where this coach is expecting a lot from me. I focused on what I was there to do: to do my best and to perform to the highest level.

I was able to take what was important and leave out the rest of the scrutiny and comments that I felt just didn’t help me enhance my game. I did face a few problems. In one of the games, I was shooting and missing a lot of where I could have scored.

I managed to deal with it by using the Zoom In, Zoom Out technique, which is not just focusing on that one moment of mistake or those few moments of mistakes, but basically zooming out and seeing the whole picture of how I’ve played throughout the rest of the game and how I’ve done overall. That’s beneficial because it really puts into perspective how big your mistake was. And that’s very good for your mindset because if you dwell on the mistake too much, it doesn’t do you any good. It’s better to acknowledge it, reflect on it, and then reset and move on.

How else has Red2Blue helped you?

I use the conversion from Red Head to Blue Head, especially when I make those mistakes or things that didn’t play out the way I wanted, or slight inconveniences. With Red2Blue, I managed to develop the skill of converting my anger and my frustration from that mistake into fuel to do better and use that as encouragement. For example, on the pitch, if I’d missed or lost the ball, I would use that as fuel to get it back; as energy. That’s very good because you’re not only getting rid of that negative mindset, but you’re converting the negative energy into positive energy and using that for good.

If you were going to go back and give advice to yourself three years ago, before you started Red2Blue, what would you say?

Red2Blue takes patience, and it takes work just like any other skill. It’s not something that’s going to automatically happen right after your first insight into it. But by training these mental skills, you’re going to be able to deal with situations much better. And you’ll see over time how it really benefits you. And even if you may not see it at the start, it gets implemented into your everyday life. Keep training, keep practicing so that it automatically gets implemented into your footballing actions. It’s not something you’re going to have to actively think about because it’s ingrained into your mindset,

Finally, how do you deal with the things that you can’t control?

I think of those three Control Circles, the ‘Can’t Control’, ‘Can Influence’ and ‘Can Control’. Being able to decide which circle they’re in really helps you move on, and stay present. If you’re thinking and worrying about things that you can’t control, you’re wasting all your time and energy on something that you can’t do anything about. If it’s in the ‘Can Control’ circle, you need to respond in a positive way.

It’s very important to reflect on what has happened and to categorise it in the right circle, then create your own actions accordingly.

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