Podcast: Performing under pressure for athletes and coaches

Martin talks Red2Blue on the Beet it with Jo podcast

Our CEO Martin was delighted to join Jo Mountford on the Beet it with Jo podcast this week to discuss our Red2Blue methodology and how it can be of huge value to the mind/body connection in athletes’ performance. Jo is an expert in holistic performance coaching and equips individual athletes and teams with an awareness of the factors influencing their vital health and practical skills.

What follows is an extract from their conversation – you can watch the full interview in the video below or listen to the podcast here or on Spotify.

Martin joins Jo Mountford on the Beet it with Jo podcast.

How does Red2Blue work for individual athletes?

Martin: Well, it’s designed for humans in general, but here’s how I introduce it specifically to athletes. When you sit down with an athlete and start talking to them about their performance – which I find is an easier entry to a discussion than mentality – you break that performance down into a number of segments. Athletes and coaches quickly recognise the physical, the technical and the tactical decision making.

Think of mentality as a skill to practice

The fourth aspect of what contributes to their ability to do well is mentality, but most of the time, my experience is they’ve either done nothing about it, or it’s been treated as something that they’ll only look at if it’s a problem. And what we’ve done with Red2Blue is create a nice, simple, accessible way to make it come across as a skill. It’s presented as a skill that they can actually learn about and practice to get better at. It helps them by developing their mental skills alongside the other aspects of what they need to develop to get better.

Sometimes people will say this is just common sense because the art of Red2Blue is to concentrate on what helps focus your attention on the task that matters. Not letting yourself get distracted by stuff that you either can’t control, or by something that’s already happened or that might happen in the future, is obviously common sense. The problem is doing it when it matters – that’s the challenge.

Focus your attention on what matters

If you overlay that with the challenge that the athletes are used to facing when they’re under pressure, then the question is, how do they apply it when it really matters? How do they make sure they keep their attention on what matters and don’t get distracted? And that recognition of what they can’t control is one of the first, most helpful pieces of work we do with athletes.

Podcast: Performing under pressure

Jo: I got introduced to you through Adri Brownlee, who is a climber operating in high-risk, high-pressure, life-threatening scenarios when climbing the mountains. When I asked her about Red2Blue and how it worked for her, she explained that you taught her how to focus on one thing. So, when the avalanches are coming down, she described it as an aircraft or a 747 coming rushing down the mountain. Instead of being paralysed by the fear and what could happen, you gave her the skills to focus on one thing, and she said she focused on her shoes!

Martin: Mountaineers are making an interesting personal choice in the first place, because they’re putting themselves into an extraordinarily difficult, challenging and potentially dangerous situation. So already, the notion of pressure that manifests in most of us on a day-to-day basis for them is extraordinarily high because of the potential outcomes. Nonetheless, the mentality needed to make sure that you’re thinking as clearly as possible in those difficult situations is fundamentally helpful.

Reset and refocus before your next decision

Adri uses Red2Blue with her team as a way of resetting, refocusing her attention on the situation she’s in – the next step, the next decision. She’s then able to zoom out and take a broader look at the decisions she might need to make rather than getting distracted by the consequences of what might happen and the potential danger with that.

Jo: So, it’s about practising over and over again. It’s about resetting and knowing what the next step is. It’s about practising the mind steps so that when you’re in the critical situations, it’s clear, crystal clear.

Martin: Yes. We’re lucky enough to work with Adri as a mountaineer, we’re working with footballers who are pursuing a professional career, with rugby players, with golfers, with rowers, with swimmers, with tennis players, with shooters in the Olympics. All of them – particularly the young ones, but all of them generally – are challenged by the same thing: Whilst you understand the concept of focusing on what matters and not getting distracted by stuff you can’t control, acknowledging that and being able to reset is difficult, which is why it’s helpful to view it as a skill.

Challenge yourself with different scenarios

A good analogy to think of skiing. As people learn to ski they first of all ski down a relatively easy slope, and it’s quite comfortable, but you still have to learn how to do it. But as you want to ski down higher, more challenging slopes, you’ve got to get better at skiing, and you’ve got to practice it. You’ve got to learn, and you’ve got to be coached and all those things.

That’s the same with mental skill. You’ve got to put yourself in difficult situations. You’ve got to challenge yourself with different scenarios. And you’ve got to come up with ways of practising what you just said, which is recognising when you’re diverted, accepting the fact that it’s your emotions reacting to a typical situation, or letting those go and then resetting your focus on what matters in this moment in time.

It sounds terribly easy to say, but it’s much more difficult when it matters. So that concept is the skill that our athletes develop.

You can hear the rest of Jo and Martin’s conversation in the podcast here.

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