Tom Sherson: As the clock counts down the final seconds the tension in the atmosphere builds and the crowd goes quiet. It's the moment of truth. The whistle blows and students start perusing their papers. Today on the podcast we chat about footy, exams and how preparing for both may not seem that far from each other. Hi and welcome to how would you know the podcast where we ask the big questions of the people who actually know.
I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land, the Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul peoples of Ipswich and Springfield where this podcast is recorded as keepers of ancient knowledge and who’s customs and cultures continue to nurture this land. I also pay respect to Elders – past, present and future.
Today's episode is all about pressure and I am certainly feeling the pressure as I'm joined by USQ alumnus CEO of Young Guns Container Crew and former National Rugby League Player Trent Young. How are you Trent?
Trent Young: Yeah, very well thanks Tom. Glad to be on the show mate.
Tom Sherson: Now Trent, you're a man who has been in a few high-pressure situations do you think you handle pressure well?
Trent Young: Yeah look as I’ve matured and become a bit wiser, I guess you became more comfortable with the situation you find yourself in based on your previous experiences and that enables you a fall back to trust yourself in certain situations that you find yourself in that involve high pressure.
Tom Sherson: Absolutely and you would have been in a few high-pressure situations particularly as a former player in the National Rugby League. How important was calming and balancing your nerves in those sorts of situations on the field?
Trent Young: Look it was definitely important. For myself the nerves was definitely something I battled with, but more so before the match. I think it was more of a preparation thing and a bit of uncertainty around not knowing what the result was going to be or the outcome you were looking for. So that uncertainty creates nerves and that's probably the body's natural way of processing that uncertainty. You know I used to dry reach funny enough before most games as part of my nerves kicking, it almost became part of my normal routine and you know you become comfortable with that. Once you hit the field the nerves really go out the window and the adrenaline kicks in. You’re really more concerned with not using up too much energy early on when that adrenaline kicks in at the start of the match. From the nerves perspective that was more prior to the activity to be honest.
Tom Sherson: Absolutely. So I guess obviously preparation plays an important role in keeping those calm nerves. So what sort of things to players do to increase you know obviously the ability to calm those nerves and as well as like building resilience in case anything goes wrong?
Trent Young: Look from a player’s perspective it really is about familiarity. You know preseason as an example, a lot of professional sporting clubs really focus on everyone being able to execute their role and as part of that being able to do that under maximum duress and those situations where the pressures high. So what they tend to do is sporting clubs is train at a level above the game posts I guess you could call it. They push people out of their comfort zone, well into the red zone and put people basically in a position that is uncomfortable and then ask them to execute at that level past game posts. Which is basically putting them in the best possible position to execute at normal game pace if you’re putting the effort at a higher level if that makes sense. Even from a team perspective it’s not just individual training it’s pushing a team environment and using team activities and team drills. Pushing them out of their comfort zone and past that game post to ensure that they can execute as a team at normal game pace to the best of their ability.
Tom Sherson: Speaking of team how important was it to have people I guess around you going through maybe the similar sort of things and did that provide a level of comfort for you?
Trent Young: Definitely in any team environment you find yourself in work, family or other as I said earlier you sort of rely on your own personal experiences but as people are around you that have been through certain experiences and certain whether it be a big match or playing state of origin it definitely helps. It creates a greater a level of certainty that you’re going to get a good result or the input that you put in and effort is going to give you a positive output from a results perspective. It’s not only that, they’ve been through situations that they can talk to you about and guide you and use that uncertainty for yourself and give you a higher level of confidence to be able to execute.
Tom Sherson: So taking this away from the stadiums and into the exam rooms. Obviously being a former student yourself, is the pressure you face in an exam the same sort of pressure as an athlete or I guess what are the key differences there?
Trent Young: From a pressure perspective, for me it’s really important to understand and define pressure as it’s definitely different to stress. There linked but stress for me is sort of a whole number of things you’re dealing with, whereas pressure is generally an outcome or result that is reliant on you executing. With pressure it’s important to understand also that you have got a decision to make and that’s how you respond to being in a pressure situation. So from that perspective the pressure’s quite similar because you have to without knowing you have an ability to respond adequately to the situation. It’s very similar from that perspective as a student, it’s how you respond to how much study you put in, how much time you put in to be able to do well in exams. An example is no different to the effort you might put on the training path from an athlete perspective that’s how you respond to the pressures that are of next week’s game, how well you look after your body and do the work during the week and the review and all that type of stuff. You’re able to have some type of control over how you respond. That’s definitely the similarity. The difference that I can see is the physical pressure of an athlete. So as a student you generally don’t have that physical aspect. The physical pressure that gets put on your body and how that impacts you mentally as well is definitely a point of difference. It’s important to understand that there’s definitely similarities based on how you respond.
Tom Sherson: A bit of a side note there, do you feel like physical exercise does help stress for something like an exam like I guess as an athlete you were obviously doing quite a lot of exercise week on week but do you feel like that was actually helping I guess de-stress you a little bit with your studies?
Trent Young: Definitely, there’s been a lot of studies conducted around the brain and it helps with the brain and the impact of exercise. I think that’s definitely a great mechanism that people should use when they’re feeling stressed or pressure is around them, even going for a walk or whatever it looks like. Any sort of exercise can definitely help. From a young age I’ve always been involved in numerous sports and even now that I’m in the professional sporting scene if I haven’t had the opportunity to exercise for more than a few days I start to get a bit jittery and I find myself needing to go for a run or go to the gym or do something to relax and be in a good headspace. I definitely recommend it.
Tom Sherson: Excellent and I guess outside of exercise are there any other techniques or skills that you can recommend from that rugby league experience that could translate to a student with regards to I guess some of that mental strength and maybe maintaining motivation across a season or semester?
Trent Young: I guess it’s based on your experience, it's really important to reflect I think and that sense of uncertainty that something can build up, but being able to reflect on times when you have delivered. Even on a page splitting the page into two and write down the times you have executed well in the past in a similar situation. Sorry write down all your positive self-talk on the left hand side of the page. So call out and make some positive self-talk comments on the left hand side of the page and on the right side of the page write down times when you’ve executed well in the past and demonstrated that positive activity or way of working in the past. That’s just something I’ve done in the past and found useful is just write things down on paper and build confidence that you can execute and set yourself up to be more comfortable with dealing with the pressure or stress you’re about to face.
Tom Sherson: Brilliant now you must have I guess a lot of experience and a lot of confidence now in yourself with dealing with pressure as a CEO of a company. Tell us a little bit about the work you do with young guns container crew?
Trent Young: At Young Guns we're a service provider to the logistics and supply chain industry. We are 14 years into business. Me and my brother started it in 2004. Basically we service 3PL (Third-party logistics) and a lot of retailer customers. We send teams of young people out to do the manual pack and unpack of shipment containers. A lot of containers that come in to Australia from China we handle for Kmart and they need to be unpacked so they can move the stock into their distribution centres and then move them out to their stores for the customers. So before they get packed we work fast in a few different states where they get packed to get distributed in Australia because they get manufactured in Australia and get distributed around Australia and overseas. So we’ve been in business for 14 years and started with 2 people and we’re now up around 600 people and have been able to expand around Australia and into Vancouver and Toronto and Canada.
Tom Sherson: That's some big expansion there so obviously a lot to coordinate as CEO. Now you would have had a few head coaches in your time playing rugby league and I guess you could say you're a bit of the head coach of the company that you're at now, how is it how important is it particularly for the young people with you in your company to I guess have somebody who instils a bit of that confidence and allows them to deal with those pressure situations and what do you do as a CEO to assist with that?
Trent Young: I think it’s just a really key way to approach doing confidence without eroding accountability. The balance has a high care high challenge. You can’t have too much of one and not enough for the other. You definitely need to be high care of your people and that’s just around support and understanding what support they need in general and when under pressure what extra support you may need to provide those team members. At the same time you need the high challenge because without challenge as humans we like to grow and develop and we need to be held accountable at times when we get a bit lazy. So you need the challenge element to be successful in a team. That’s what a coach does identifies the good behaviours and the good activities on the field that support success and they also identify the areas where they need to improve the opportunities to get better both individually and as a team. Finding some balance in there, you can’t have too much of one and not enough of the other otherwise there’s an imbalance there and you won’t get to the successful desired outcomes that you hope to achieve.
Tom Sherson: Brilliant. That's all we've got time for you can read more about Trent’s USQ journey and the work he's currently doing at the moment in HeyU magazine issue 57. Look thanks for joining us Trent it's been an absolute pleasure.
Trent Young: Thanks Tom. Thanks for having me on the show.
Tom Sherson: You don't have to be a professional athlete to get yourself in athletic state of mind. If you want to learn more about strategies you can use to get your head in the game at uni you can watch our online webinar with another big name in rugby league Matthew Elliot. Head to usq.edu.au/webinars and search for performing under pressure. Also be sure to head to Social Hub for great advice, resources, and content including more episodes of How Would You Know. Thanks for joining me on the USQ podcast my name is Tom and now you know.