Olympic rugby coach, Euan Mackintosh visited The Mount yesterday, spending the day meeting with pupils and staff and sharing his experiences as an Olympic rugby coach. The Scot, who coached the China national women’s rugby 7s team to seventh place in the Tokyo Olympics, called the visit “a valuable experience” and praised pupils of the all-girl Quaker school for assimilating his message while giving him ideas to reflect on.
“It’s been absolutely brilliant. Having been through a journey with a group of female athletes, it’s nice to share the experience with a group of young females. The girls have been brilliant. They’ve tried to make a connection between what I’ve showed them and what they’ve been doing, whether it’s general psychology, or PE or simply about being resilient. They’ve asked some really interesting questions, which has made me reflect on things I probably haven’t reflected on, so it’s been a very valuable experience for me, and hopefully for them too,” said Mackintosh.
The rugby coach was an invited guest of The Mount’s new Principal, David Griffiths. The two friends first met in China during Mackintosh’s tenure as coach while Griffiths was Headmaster of a leading school in China and also Technical Advisor to the China Rugby Football Association.
His visit to The Mount included presentations to pupils studying GCSE and A-Level PE and A-Level Psychology, taking the Year 9s through rugby drills similar to those he taught his Olympic squad, meeting staff and enjoying a meal with Sixth Form pupils. He was impressed with what he saw.
“The girls are in a thriving environment where things are very open and they are able to express themselves which I think it’s really nice to see that. They all obviously feel very comfortable being here which is a great start because if you’re not comfortable in your environment it is very difficult to learn,” said Mackintosh.
Pupils were equally as impressed with their Olympian visitor. Isabel, who is in the lower Sixth Form and is North of England’s U20 women’s champion in the pole vault and also a sprinter, said, “I thought it was an amazing talk. Everything he said relates to our A-Level and GCSE PE coursework, and also applies to A-Level Psychology. He shared with us a video of the China women’s rugby 7s team when they made it to the top 8 of the competition in Tokyo; their response was amazing. What I’ve learned from his visit which will also help my EPQ (extended project qualification).”
Ava (Year 10), who dances with the Northern Ballet Academy’s associate programme, said, “I thought Euan’s talk was inspiring. It was amazing to see how much the team were training to prepare for the Olympics. He answered all of our questions. I liked what he said about balancing peak performance and levels of pressure. As a dancer, when I have an exam or a performance, it’s useful to know how much pressure you can take so that you can perform your best. I loved that.”
Alice (Year 10), who is an equestrian competitor, said, “I was interested to hear how the squad was together for two and a half years of training and only saw their families for four weeks. Euan’s journey, from a player to being injured to coaching for the Olympic Games, was amazing to hear. If you’re injured, there is always a Plan B which can lead you down a similar path.”
Libby (Year 10) competes for the North of England in the Biathlon. “It was exciting when we heard Euan was going to visit. I was inspired by the things that he said and the pictures that he shared with us My take-away was a graph he showed us of your stress levels and how well you can compete under a certain amount of stress. He explained how much better you do with your personal preference, on whether you compete best in the middle (5) with a medium amount of stress, or a 10 with lots of stress and you perform best. That was really interesting and it’s something that I can now teach other people about. I’d like to thank Euan for coming in, it was really great,” said Libby.
“To hear how Euan had been injured, that must have broken his heart to not be able to play any more. And then being able to bounce back and still be able to help another team to build back better, that was inspirational,” said Tilly in Upper Sixth.
David Griffiths said, “We had a great day hosting Euan at The Mount. By sharing the benefit of his experience with our girls, he has enriched their learning and also gained something of value for himself. He has very kindly said he will keep in touch with the school, which is wonderful for the girls.”
In the Girls’ Own Words
“Euan’s talk was very interesting, especially all the metaphors he used for motivation and inspiration, I found those particularly useful.” – Daisy (College I)
“I liked hearing about the facility the team was in for the Tokyo Olympics, and their actual daily routines. It’s cool to have people in like Euan.” – Nessa (College I).
“The idea that we could meet this coach is a really cool thing. He was a very nice man and took time to speak with us.” – Jasmin (College I)
“Usually when we talk about sport we think only about the athletes, so it was quite interesting to listen to the coach’s point of view. I liked when he told us how, to work as a coach, he also has to consider the athletes’ feelings. It’s not only about teaching them skills, but also you have to know about psychology. He spoke about feeling very sad to tell certain athletes they had to stop, because we can’t ignore your injuries, that was quite interesting because his playing career was also stopped due to injury..” – Angel (College I)
“It was interesting to hear how he overcame the language barriers and that he felt so comfortable training the China women’s squad. When he talked about pressure and performance levels, that really spoke to me. I’m not good with pressure academically, but in sports I work much better under pressure.” – Leila (College I)
“Euan’s talk was inspiring. I think what he shared can all be applied to studying. I have a hard time with balancing rest and work and I tend to just overload my work and put a lot of pressure onto it. So I think the importance of rest, which he spoke of, really stuck with me.” – Libby (College I)
“I found it interesting when he was talking about the motivation for athletes. The tasks he was doing with them and trying to understand where they were coming from really helped their teamwork and also their progression. That effected their outlook on life because if you’re doing something you don’t really want to do, then they’re going to spend all of their days being miserable, even if they’re winning every day. I thought that was quite cool. I also thought the role psychology played was interesting. He used different tasks which link to some of the mental health stuff that we do, like cognitive behavioural therapy. Personally, I liked the circle model that he showed us, the idea of putting everything that you can control inside the circle and everything that you can’t control outside. Because there is so much stuff that you can’t actually control, so if that’s what stresses you out, you just work on the stuff that you can do. That will really help.” – Gemma (College II)
“I found him very interesting and his past experiences. It was quite eye opening to understand professional sport from his perspective and how he has been able to bounce back, from having a professional career and being injured into a successful role in the sport of rugby. It was very admirable.” – Martha (College II)
“He talked about a lot of the things that we learn about in PE. When you put it into a real-life situation it’s really interesting how he used it to improve his performance of his team.” – Caroline (College II)
“It’s quite inspirational that he’s been to Tokyo and done all that as well.” – Alabama (College II)
Euan also visited classes with GCSE and A-Level PE students and A-Level Psychology students. The girls said they found his insights and advice very interesting. #WeKnowGirlsCan pic.twitter.com/lLqyf90yXN
— The Mount School York (@MountSchoolYork) January 13, 2022