A keenly-contested and punishing RBS 6 Nations championship has brought the importance of self-awareness and resilience among elite athletes to the fore.
Nowhere has this been more the case than in Scotland in the earlier stages of the competition, where the bravery, doggedness and inventiveness of the Scots ignited an enthusiasm, even an expectation, among the Scotland support.
The Scots demonstrated resilience to overcome the Welsh in round three, after losing captain Greig Laidlaw to a championship ending injury in the previous round. But this weekend it was England who finally found the inner strength to be able to unequivocally demonstrate their stranglehold on the game in the northern hemisphere, emphatically extending their winning streak to 18 games.
Throughout the highs and lows of the championship so far, it’s been clear to me that the self-awareness shown by the teams demonstrates that there’s more to success than athletic ability alone.
Increased self-awareness helps an athlete understand how they take on new information and prepares them for high pressure situations.
Self-awareness, both for athletes and those working with them, can make the difference between ‘good’ performances and ‘great’ ones. When we understand ourselves, we generate the possibility of making better choices, which can lead to better outcomes.
In my business, from our base in Dundee, we’ve been working with key individuals across the sporting code to give coaches and athletes, at all levels, the tools to better understand themselves on and off the pitch. The work is focused on improving performance through increased self-awareness and, critically for sporting success, resilience.
While it’s widely acknowledged that the work we do has a serious impact on the corporate world, many people wouldn’t expect it to translate into sport.
However this approach is useful for a lot of things: creating a common language, helping team-mates work together more effectively at crucial moments, discovering what motivates each person, and understanding how different people respond to feedback.
Positive changes in behaviour and communication, focused around athletes getting the best out of each other, have been noted among the individuals and teams we’ve worked with. There have even been instances on the pitch where communication has been enhanced and that has resulted in improved results.
As England prepare this week to battle for Grand Slam supremacy, a struggling Ireland will need to dig deep to find their own inner strength to spoil the party.
Meanwhile Scotland must regroup and reflect to restore their winning form against Italy.
I’m confident that it will be the teams with the greatest resolve and whose players are the most self-aware that will emerge victorious.
Andy Lothian is chief executive of Dundee-based international learning & development business Insights